SHADOW: overview – B (from Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6)


The author is the only and exclusive owner of the copyright of all that follows.

This overview consists of excerpts of several sections of the book, and of very few of the 94 literary quotes that are noted at the end of each one section.

The symbols    >>>>>>>       indicate missing from this overview text.  

31 “Assigning” the Shadow; the repetitive ​scenarios

*** What does it mean to “assign” my Shadow to somebody?
This is a very common, but complex, way of trying to balance the energy emerging from the Shadow, from within our present time – never mind that we may simply end up strengthening the fence around it.

Let us start with an everyday phenomenon. We often observe, in others’ lives or in our own, certain characteristic patterns, in accordance with which various events evolve, repeatedly – we may call them “repetitive scenarios”. Someone carefully sets something up, again and again, but then she wrecks it at the last moment – you might think that the whole attempt was designed with the moment of its destruction in mind.
Another behaves in his every relationship in the same way – you would think that he meets other, new people only in order to do what he always does (let’s say, to feel injustice or abandonment, or that he’s always the boss).
Furthermore, in everyday life we often hear such phrases as, “Once more I got involved with someone who {has this or that character} … I can’t stand it any more… How is it that I attract people who do just what I can’t stand? Am I some kind of magnet for sickness or what?”

We can perhaps see these ​repetitive scenarios as a way of co-existing with our Shadow. A way in which we assign to others to save us and relieve us from the accumulated energy in our Shadow… And as they inevitably fail, we repeat this or that standard life scenario, inviting more and more other people to become our saviours while we are awaiting a certain kind of salvation that never comes. As if we insisted on performing the same play with a different cast – the plot, though, remains the same.

*** The mechanism of assignment.
To start with, we need to remember that time has stopped for any of our aspects frozen in the Shadow, in the way that a grape can be preserved in honey for decades. So it is with an aspect of our self in the Shadow (and the energy of our “unfinished business” – see section 2); it is as if it had been trapped in amber. It is preserved just as it was when it was exiled in there beyond our awareness, however much time may have passed.

This means that for our time-frozen alienated aspect to be justified, the traumatic scenario from the past must restart and continue into the present, following the line of its original plot. Moreover, the present version has to include the exact original traumatic patterns of the past, but with some hope of an unexpected magical twist of the plot that will cancel out the past pain and bring into the present the happy ending that the past needed.

That is to say, any aspect of ourselves imprisoned in the Shadow needs this: whoever and whatever was bad in the past scenario has to be repaired, to become good in the present continuation of the past scenario. A new good scenario is useless by itself because it substitutes but does not repair the bad points of the past scenario.

In a very free metaphor, the past sequence of events was [“bad” – “traumatic” – “bad pending”] – “pending” meaning that the energy of a past trauma is suspended, till now; the present sequence, in order to balance and not just substitute the past, has to be [“again bad” – “again traumatic” – “transformation of the bad to good”].

In other words, if we adopt the logic of an aspect of self frozen in time in the Shadow, peace will come only when the story re-starts and moves on from the point at which the pause button was once pressed. By this logic, only in this way will the original scenario be closed with a happy end – I mean that scenario which in the past had caused that aspect of our self to be exiled in the Shadow. Of course, such an imprisonment was then necessary, because if that aspect of self had not been enclosed in the Shadow the consequences would have been threatening and painful.
{46} One day I heard a child who wanted to say that she was about to cry, saying not, “I’m going to cry”, as any adult, namely any idiot, might say, but instead the child said, “Tears are coming to me”. And this sentence, which is entirely literary, to the point where we might attribute it to a famous poet, if one were found to say it, refers clearly to the warm presence of tears falling from eyelashes – eyelashes fully aware of the liquid bitterness. “Tears are coming to me!” [Soares, Bernardo – 5]


35.a The happy ending in fairy ​tales

In both art and folk culture, the rehabilitation of the threatening and considered ugly aspects within our Shadow through assigning the task to Others, often seems to be possible.

For example, in various horror stories with ghosts, demons and spirits, when the hero uncovers the truth about the injustice and violence that caused the ghost to haunt the scene of the crime in its search for justice, then the ghost finds peace and departs; the hero is usually presented as the one who can break the spell of the haunting, offering justice and peace to the ghost.

Fairy tales almost invariably reach a happy ending. The frog who needs to be kissed as a frog so that he can become a prince, needs to assign to someone else the task of saving him by deleting his Shadow (that is, by accepting his ugliness), so that such acceptance may bring about metamorphosis. In fact he is waiting for the appearance of the good fairy, or princess, who by kissing him now as a frog (accepting his ugly aspect) will break the past spell cast by some wicked witch, and rehabilitate him as a prince.

The good princess or fairy is, of course, nothing more than the other side of the evil witch – here we have two aspects of the same figure, actually of the “mother” (of the ancient matrix that enfolded us as infants). The evil side of this primitive matrix/mother saw the prince as a baby, ugly: she reflected his image as a frog. From then on, the frog tries to encounter the other aspect, the good mother; only then, when the good mother has been integrated with the evil one, will there be re-established within him the wholeness of the one complete mother – and the prince will find his own serenity.

Something analogous to the frog’s story occurs with the Beast, the monster who cruelly mistreats the young women of the village who serve him in his castle, until Beauty, with her patience, endures his Shadow (his bad behaviour), breaks the old spell through her patience and acceptance, and the hideous monster becomes a handsome prince. In a similar way, the prince awakens Snow White and the Sleeping Beauty with the kiss of true love – a beautiful metaphor for how our alienated aspects are frozen in time and then awoken only through what is classically called true love, meaning true, unconditional and full acceptance.     


35.b The unhappy ending in life

In the well-known fairy tale, the prince who had been transformed into a frog by an evil witch, needs to be kissed by a princess so that the spells will be resolved. So, in his present life, the prince seeks help from an Other (the princess), who is at first hesitant to be persuaded to kiss him (thus presenting her evil aspect). What the prince is actually asking is a transformation of the evil mother into a good mother. In this way, the integration of the present good mother (the princess) with the former bad mother (the cursing witch) would be realised across time.

It seems that a universal human need in order to balance life’s troubles is a belief that someday, somehow, there will be justice in this world. The delusion of such transcendental justice is perfectly expressed in popular Greek proverbs: “For all evil actions, there is always a cost paid in this life, on this earth”, “God will help us one day, anyway”, and so on.

  However, in real life today’s bad guys very often remain bad and very alive without paying any kind of cost for what they do … Moreover, many worthy poor people get ill and are unfortunate, while many worthless rich people remain healthy and prosper, contrary to common ideas of “universal justice”. 

Woody Guthrie (1988) sings: “Now as I look around, it’s mighty plain to see / This world is such a great and a funny place to be; / Oh, the gamblin’ man is rich an’ the workin’ man is poor, / And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore”.

Moreover, Saki (H.H. Munro) writes in his stories (2000) that there once was a man who met a good fairy; the fairy offered him a choice between either huge wealth or love and honours. And since he chose the money, he got the love and respect too.

So, when the princess is finally persuaded and gives that kiss, then the fairy tale in some sense cheats. It cheats because we know that no kiss in the present can turn the clock back and change or erase the past, which is something we can only accept and not influence per se.

Perhaps, beyond delusions of transcendental justice, our only way to actually move through this life is to accept that we are beautiful even when we feel like frogs; that we do not need permission to become, or to feel, beautiful by means of the kiss of some merciful princess who accepts our ugliness.

If we are so deluded as to hand over to Others the authority to transform us, we simply and permanently confirm the isolation of our inner child as well as our form as the ugly frog of the fairy tale. And through our repetitive scenarios in which we are ugly and suffer as poor victims, we actually beg for someone’s mercy. Our non-conscious expectation is that we may become beautiful through our reflection in the mirrors of their eyes, which will repair whatever we consider ugly about ourselves.

We struggle in vain through various present assignments of our Shadow (see section 31) to correct the past, while it would be much more functional to embrace it and then move forward, proud of our traumas instead of being ashamed of them.

In fairy tales, the diachronic rehabilitation of the past almost always works, because that is what fairy tales are all about, as they should be. However, in life things are not at all like that – perhaps that is why as adults we still need fairy tales and their beauty. However, let us suppose that in some imaginary world somebody really could ever save us from our Shadow and that we in fact do meet this someone in one of our repetitive scenarios in which we assign to others our salvation from the Shadow; let us suppose too that this someone gifts to us, in our present, all the acceptance that we needed in the past, when we exiled to our Shadow whatever we rejected from our past environment.

It can be guaranteed that even in this imaginary world this acceptance would be useless. Why?

Because each experience, as has been noted several times, is unique. Each experience can be composed only once, in our “here and now”, because of its non-conscious, implicit and directly-lived components, which are produced and are alive only for as long as the experience is under development. As a result, it would be impossible even for a horde of idealised Others to eliminate from the present time the original past experience.

We and the world have changed; even if we could return to the scene of that former experience to live it again in the hope of restoring it, the implicit experiential elements during our return visit can never be the same as those of the original experience. In brief, to find peace in this way is impossible because of our own construction and the ways in which our experience is synthesised – at least in the commonly accepted dimensions within which our earthly life unfolds.

So even if a princess were found to kiss the frog, nothing would be restored in the frog’s psychic reality because the past as a series of events cannot be changed once it has happened – experiential events are not alterable because they are unique. What can indeed change is the present meaning of past events – because meanings are both cognitive and emotional (see section 17a) and also are both ephemeral and relative (see section 19).

However, to change the meaning of any past event is not to turn some magic switch on or off; meanings are human constructions and are built on a certain background – events acquire different meanings against different backgrounds. Thus, changing a past meaning requires a new background against which the new meaning will now be composed. And this means not to expect anybody to save us, but working hard to enrich our awareness in the present and to build a new active present background able to create the new meaning of the past events.

So, regardless of the supportive kiss in the present, the frog would need to do a lot of work on its self, on its growth and on its awareness. To change the meaning of our past always remains a personal tak. This is why, while a kiss in the present may offer some support and relief, it is clearly not enough to eliminate the past without an enriched present awareness of what had happened and led to the imprisonment in the Shadow of this or that among our aspects of self.

It would seem that the present can become a functional catalyst for the painful contents of the Shadow only if we manage to make of it a new solid background, a new powerful prism through which we see the past and finally accept the wounds and scars in our Shadow. (We shall talk extensively about this process in Chapter F, especially in section 55).


38 Example 1: “No Exit​​”

How does it sometimes happen that while our whole being cries out to get away from a person, still we desperately beg that person not to reject us? What are the invisible bonds that sometimes keep us partners in a dependent connection of decline, corruption, and mutual cannibalism? How can it be that two people who strongly despise each other can also need each other so profoundly, desperately and tragically?
First, let’s take a look at the basic staging of this most peculiar drama.

38.a The ​protagonists

• (a) Let us recall the protagonist of section 33, Mr. B. This man tells everyone that he wants a relationship with a woman who is stable, predictable and always there for him, even though in fact he always gets passionately involved with unstable, unpredictable women. According to the idea of the assignment of the Shadow (see section 31), B is trapping himself in various repetitive scenarios. In the loops of these scenarios’ central patterns, he is attracted by unstable, unpredictable women, although this contradicts his claims about what he is seeking. And we saw that what he is actually doing is to non-consciously assign to these women the task of breaking down the walls that protect his Shadow.

His non-conscious hope is that a bad woman, unsuitable for him, unstable and unpredictable, will be transformed into a good fairy and so become a stable, consistent presence; a presence able to cast a spell on the fears in his Shadow, so that the suspended time within the realms of his Shadow may move on again from the point when it was frozen.

• (b) Now let us bring a Ms. Z onto the stage and build up her role, complementary to Mr. B’s. Ms. Z constantly seeks confirmation by constantly asking and receiving from men. In her Shadow, there is a past aspect of hers that was/is abandoned, unworthy, despised, desperate, helpless, terrified, full of fears. Ms. Z, to balance these non-conscious dark issues in her Shadow, is always consciously looking to receive from men reflections of herself as beautiful and worthy. Moreover, she strongly believes that she deserves such reflections because she has constructed such a self-image as to feel important, perfect, charming, superior to all the others – a queen of the universe.

While Z announces to everyone that she is looking for a man who will provide her with the confirmation she needs, in her own repetitive scenarios she is attracted to men who put her down, who underrate her, or who are anyway incapable of offering her the reflections she demands. Even when she meets a man who is emotionally generous, as rarely happens, she asks for even more; however, she will never be satisfied with what she gets, being like a bottomless vessel that can never be filled.

So that Z’s Shadow can move on from the time when it froze, she assigns her Shadow (through her repetitive scenarios), to unsuitable men: to men who do not offer to her the glorious reflections which she herself states she needs.

To break the chain of repetitive scenarios, she ideally has to find a bad guy, inadequate to offer her the reflections she wants; however, again ideally, this bad guy will at some moment be suddenly and magically transformed into a handsome prince. He will then manage to personify that idealised image of the saviour – Other that Z is non-consciously yet desperately awaiting. There is the delusion that if this should happen then the dark traumatised aspects of her self inside her Shadow would finally receive, in the present, that which they needed in the past.   

38.b The basic ​plot

When Ms. Z and Mr. B meet, that’s when the party begins. B, to ensure Z’s stability and presence (so that the hidden, idealised good fairy can emerge from heartless, wicked Z), gives unendingly. But it is impossible to satisfy Z. She always asks for more, on every level, material or other (so that she will find, in the inadequate, ungenerous image of B built into her subjective perception, that handsome prince who will provide her with unending confirmation of her importance). B is always moving ahead, towards Z, offering more and more so as to buy Z’s presence and stability; Z is always moving backwards away from B, to force him to offer more and more.

In fact they never really meet; their relationship is chiefly a game and a binding of two Shadows which complement each other. To be precise, these are their ways of mutually assigning their Shadows to each other, ways which suit them just as a key fits its lock.

In their conscious subjective perception, each sees the other as a heartless person, incapable, unjust, indifferent and above all unwilling to turn their head and see what the partner is crying out for. In particular, B declares that he needs a reliable presence and stability, while Z declares her need for confirmation. They are angry with each other because they do not get what each assigned to the other to offer, when they engaged in their repetitive scenarios.

The fact is, though, that what brings them together is not that which they consciously declare that they need and that which they think that the other denies them. Deeper down, they actually and non-consciously need the opposite of what they consciously declare.

What happens is that B needs absence and Z needs undervaluation, so that their Shadows will be provoked and challenged to such a degree that their old fears will flow into their consciousness and be accepted in their present; so that they finally become aware that as adults they are not dying when they are experiencing such fears – whereas, in the past, such fears had to be isolated in the Shadow.

However, in practice, B and Z non-consciously and mutually assign to each other the role of causing this explosion of their Shadows, regardless of any protests from their conscious self-sense. Their relationship gradually degenerates. Their moments of beauty and calmness grow fewer. Each ceases to value the other and sees him or her as more of an enemy than a partner. Their conflicts are accompanied by insults, accusations and condemnation without trial.

If B and Z do not split up (probably dramatically), then a very powerful and apparently inexplicable attraction develops; this attraction develops because each implicitly represents for the other a chance to connect with the energy of his or her own Shadow. B and Z cannot stand each other in the “light” (in their conscious everyday life), but neither can they stand to break up as each desperately needs the other in their Shadows. “I hate myself for loving you / Can’t break free from the things that you do / I want to walk but I run back to you / That’s why I hate myself for loving you” (Child & Jett, 1988).

They start depending toxically on each other in a catastrophic and far from beautiful passion. Of course, there are from time to time brave declarations of the type, “I’m up to here, it can’t go on”, and repetitive temporary separations. However, the dependent, addictive bond is not broken. It is maintained by the irresistible force and need of any human being to develop as a whole, without the obstacle of a large and frozen Shadow. Then since each delusionally and non-consciously sees the other as the good fairy in the tale (who with her magic wand will dissolve her or his Shadow), it is impossible for them to split up.

In fact, through their repetitive scenarios and their poisonous complementation, Z and B each demand that the other will untie the tangled knot of their personal “unfinished business”. But they are asking the impossible – that through the agency of another person a Now shall replace a Then. So they simply produce and reproduce the same dead-ends, those same traumas with which each of them had once fed their Shadows.

A vicious circle of this type strongly reminds me of the play “No Exit” by the French existentialist philosopher and author Jean-Paul Sartre (1944-2011). Three people meet and talk in a hotel room, without knowing how they got there – until it is revealed that they have died and that this is the place where they will spend eternity. The nightmare and the drama is that each of them wants to be with one of the others, who does not, however, want the one who desires him or her, but someone else: a circle of denial and frustration that crushes them all and can never be resolved. To put this in the first person: I endlessly and painfully wish for something, exactly because I cannot have it since I have located it in someone who cannot or will not give it to me.

When this kind of relationship becomes dependent, there is an increase in their desire, in that irresistible magnetic force bonding them together. It is quite possible that for quite a time sex becomes all-powerful, an overwhelming experience, the only shared process that somehow brings these two rivals close to each other.

Sex is an experience of which the archaic, chthonic features and the power of sensation can temporarily brush aside many of the psychological elements of this experience. That is why in sexual excitement and in orgasm a false sense of melting into one another (of reaching absolute union), may be briefly created; it is as if the unattainable had become reality for a few moments, as if whatever separates us can no longer keep us apart, as if the Other had become exactly the person outlined by our deepest needs.

However, this phase of intense sexual excitation does not last forever and cannot save a dependency relationship – as dependency increases, so the relationship dries up. All that is left is something like a final breath, ready to be let out, which at the last moment is continuously held in and sticks in the throat; then the breath is reabsorbed, and then the same thing again – an endless death struggle.

What is left at the end is an ill-defined but imperative need of one for the other, accompanied by a mutual distaste.


39.a The abuser and the victim​

Firstly, I should make it clear that a “victim” is one who generally and in a true sense suffers violence or the violation of the boundaries of his or her being, on any level. However, in this section, we refer rather to the “self-victimised victim”: a person who has got involved in a dependent relationship of any kind with her or his abuser/bully by adopting the role of the victim – a situation that does not necessarily refer to a victim seeking actual  sadomasochistic violence.

• (a) To focus on the abuser: the use of violence (physical or psychological) is his or her way of sealing off that which is contained in her/his Shadow. These are usually humiliated and painful aspects of self, having to do with the violence that the abuser suffered in the past; this is probably why it is said that there is no abuser who had not been a victim in the past (to say more on how and why a victim turns out to be an abuser is beyond our theme here).

Primary features of a victim are aspects of self that are accompanied by fear, anger and whatever is generated by humiliation, indifference, shame, and violence. So, if the former victim then becomes an abuser, she or he walls off all those aspects of self and all these unsupportable feelings within his/her Shadow: by becoming an abuser I enclose my own abuse in my Shadow.

• (b) On the other hand, if we focus on the victim, any victim is usually someone who has been taken over by futility and very low self-esteem (Carotenuto, 2012), having in the past received from the environment distorted and disastrous reflections of her or his being. The victim’s submission to the abuser’s violence, in the name of the secret hope that it may be possible to change that person by enduring his or her violence, often becomes a central meaning in the victim’s life; this happens especially when there is the excuse that violence is endured on the name of self-sacrifice to support some generally accepted value: children, family, social standing. Self-sacrifice gives some meaning to the victim’s ravaged self-image, and at the same time is the means of walling off in the Shadow aspects of self, the manifestation of which into consciousness would be a disaster.

Abuser and victim never really meet as human beings. They nevertheless constitute a complete system since they represent complementary roles, strongly linked by the rope that is woven by their Shadows, through this destructive process of mutual assignment. To be precise, one will not do without the other, as we shall see more clearly below.
{57} The lover cannot bear anyone to be superior or equal to himself in his beloved’s eyes, and strives to defeat every rival; he keeps the beloved apart from a host of relationships, he attempts, by a thousand indelicate schemes, to keep the beloved in ignorance, so that he will know only what comes to him from his lover; he secretly craves the loss of what is dearest to the beloved: farther, mother, relatives, friends; he wants the beloved to have neither home nor children; his daily assiduity is wearisome; he is not content to be left alone for a minute, day or night; […] Whatever he supposes, the lover’s heart is filled with bad feelings: his love is not generous. [Barthes, Roland – 1]


39.b The repetitive ​blood cycle​

Each time that the cycle of an episode of actual violence is completed, there is a brief interval in the Shadows’ merciless game of abuser and victim. In this interval, many things may happen. Sometimes the abuser proposes taking the victim to the hospital. At other times, if the victim refuses this, the abuser may phone frequently to find out how the injured victim’s recovery is progressing. The abuser often swears never to do it again, that “from now on everything will be different”. The victim in his/her turn, sometimes (rather rarely), may even go to the police during this brief interval, often on the insistence of friends. In any case, the tension is somewhat relieved, but only temporarily.

Victims, once recovered, start once more to believe that they can give their abusers the chance that they are asking for. The wish to go back to the good old days is extremely powerful and hypnotic. The memory of violence fades. In the victims’ selective memory past scenes of violence lose their meaning, in the way that a bad dream is forgotten. Similarly, abusers wonder how they “could ever have done such a thing”.

It should be noted that during this interval the victim may even feel guilty about wishing to end the relationship: “How can I abandon a sick person who needs me now more than ever?” This stance is reinforced because the abuser is now regretful, cooperative, and generous, showing a complete understanding of the temporary distancing that the victim asks for. The relationship continues – and the victim’s supportive friends feel once more that they are mocked and exploited by the victim, who is merely using them as a shoulder to cry on, while refusing to do anything substantial, such as getting away from the abuser once and for all.

Nevertheless, the poisonous cycle soon gets going again – this is inevitable (Theiopoulos, 2016). As neither partner is working to connect with his or her own Shadow’s energy, the need of human existence to be and to proceed as a whole remains invincible, so their Shadows with their imprisoned ghosts keep on following them throughout their days. These ghosts in their Shadows exert more and more pressure.

Their relationship organises itself in such a way as to include both partners together with their Shadows. And this happens beyond the conscious expectations of this destructive pair – or, beyond the beautifully edited images of their relationship that they insist on constructing in their minds. So, after the interval, the stage is set once more, ready for the re-enactment of the same drama.


40.a Model 1: the voices of the father and the holy ​mother

***The basic scenario.
In one model, the persons producing the drama are as follows: there is the father, a loud-mouth all the time shouting for all things but not notably violent. (I am aware that the word “notably” doesn’t mean much, but I use it only to suggest that here we have a variation on the previous example of physical violence). This father may just be a shouter – may be quick to anger, raising his voice constantly and on the slightest pretext. He often quarrels loudly with the mother (even if he does not hit her), but rarely with the children. The mother sometimes puts up with this silently, or at other times raises her voice too.

***The supporting cast.
The parents’ interdependent Shadows imprison the children in their tangles, in many and various ways. For instance, children may not suffer direct violence from the father, but they still suffer, because they are affected by the echoes of what happens between their parents. The father is usually distant, even if he at times surprises them with gifts or treats. There is no authentic communicative language beyond the routine. He is strict in a peculiar way, most of the time indirectly, and does not negotiate with whosoever does not agree with his point of view. When he says what he thinks, which seldom happens, he holds firmly to his position and rejects, or doesn’t even listen to, any other idea. He satisfies many of his family’s wishes, as long as they do not openly oppose his beliefs, and brings money home to the family in so far as this is possible.

The children experience their father as a distant, unknown, unpredictable and fearsome figure and ally themselves with their mother. They adore her and see her as a heroine – indeed they often act as peacemakers and break up their parents’ violent quarrels, rescuing the mother.

The mother, on the other hand, instead of taking the children and leaving, uses them as catalysts to manipulate her dependency relationship with the father. She usually represents the children to the father and it is she who asks for money for the children’s needs. If she knows that some need would not be approved by the father, she organises a scenario to manipulate and trick the father for the sake of the children.

Let’s say the son needs money to subscribe to some activity not totally approved of by the father, so the mother tells him that their son needs money for books; or then, she does not report to the father when the children do something wrong or she does not tell him the exact time they returned from a party. In short, she becomes their best friend (“we can tell each other everything”), she tells them not to be upset by their father’s behaviour because “He’s a good man deep down but that’s how he is, you know …”

***The Mother-sister.
This family schema is organised around the manipulative alliance formed by the mother and her children, so as to cover up the overall family Shadow. Of course, to be exact, this schema is directly imposed by the mother from a time when the children are not of an age to be aware of boundaries and are still easily manipulated. In this way, they all become little brothers and sisters confronting the dragon-father.

The children not only undertake to save their mother from their father but also to console her. It is now in their blood that they regard her as a martyr, as a true victim. Even when, rarely, they catch a glimpse of an idea of what their mother should be doing so as to protect them and herself, it is almost impossible for them to see her otherwise, on an emotional level. In their eyes, she was and is always a victim: “What could that poor woman do?”

Moreover, the children not only lack a prototype for a male parent but to all intents and purposes a mother figure too. They are left “orphans” on the mother’s side too, since their mother has become a sister.

In a healthy family, the two parents form a consistent system so as to present a common front to their children, together; however, here the mother has crossed the line, left the parental system, and placed herself next to the children. Furthermore, the children soon cease to be real children. They grow up far too quickly, because they are in fact the catalysts of the “Delicate Balance” of terror between the father-bully and the mother-victim (“A Delicate Balance” is the title of a play by Edward Albee – 2011).

If it should happen that they wish to step out of their assigned roles or to speak explicitly about what is happening, they are dismissed as exaggerating, by both parents (or maybe just by the mother); or they are even accused that they are wrecking the family’s superficial balance.

Grown up, with their Shadows well sealed off, they usually describe their childhood family relationship as one of love, of protection, adding sometimes “only … there … now and again”, yet minimising the gravity of the situation and presenting the father as a tireless breadwinner – “so that’s why he was a bit irritable”.

***What the children have to pay.
The children pay a high price for the maintenance of the family’s dysfunctional balance (that is, the parents’ dependency relationship through the complementarity of their Shadows). They bear within themselves a heavy burden of feelings that are hidden from awareness – anger, sorrow, disappointment – feelings belonging to aspects stored in their Shadows. Later, they may come to resemble the father: to suffer blind anger towards anything and everybody, exploding at the slightest thing without any real reason. They may also suffer from depression, withdrawal from life, drug abuse or delinquency.

It often happens that children who are trapped in such family nets get involved in the family business or profession, thus becoming forever trapped in the family’s Shadow, not giving up their catalytic role even in the adult staging of the drama.

Sometimes the children come into serious conflict with each other. Generally, when one child opposes the parents, the other child defends them, ignoring the fact that this protective stance does not express her/his own self, but the parents’ need to keep their toxic relationship intact.

  However, this development of children who oppose the parents does not guarantee that such children will be able to live a functional life, since even if they escape from the vicious circle, they will come out of it severely damaged and unable to orient to life.

It is easily understood, I think, that there are many variations upon the theme of the above illustrative schema of family dynamics. For example, let us imagine that the father does not limit himself to loud, angry words, but beats the mother and one of the children, usually the daughter; and let us imagine too that the daughter protests about all this intense and irrational violence. The boy (or the other girl) who remains a silent and terrorised observer of the suffering of his brother or sister is directly traumatised as a consequence.  He (or she) may well become a crippled, weak adult, living under a constant regime of threat and diffused with imperceptible terror, unaware of the connection between his or her constant, corrosive sense of fear in adult life and the father’s behaviour.

Or in another variant, let’s say the father is relatively calm and physically non-violent, but repeatedly and systematically cheats on the mother – everyone knows this but no one speaks of it. In this variant, even if there is no physical violence, the mother still may victimise herself and become the sister of her children.  In general, there are many scenarios in which the mother is victimised (and the father becomes directly or indirectly an abuser), into which the children are more or less dragged because of their parents’ dysfunctional relationship; they are drawn into the gaping black hole of the family system within which festers the chronic infection caused by the family’s Shadow.


40.b Model 2: the vampire mother and the holy​ ​father

A second model of a family Shadow may appear, but now the roles are distributed otherwise – though the pattern is still the dependency relationship of the parents and the human sacrifice of the children. The appears on the stage a mother who, for many and various possible reasons, projects her anger at her unpleasant life onto the daughter; she hates her (explicitly or implicitly). Even if she declares that she loves her daughter, her behaviour is that of somebody who in fact hates.

It is to be understood here that the daughter is not the problem, but is the recipient of the reflection of the Shadow of the parents’ dependency relationship that inevitably includes the mother’s personal problems and deadlocks. There are many variations of this model, with various principal victims.

***The girl.
In this scenario, the mother hits the girl or constantly belittles her or insults her, or humiliates her or competes with her – or all of these, and more. In such a case, if physical violence occurs, it is usually extreme.

As for the father, he is typically extremely hard-working, so is seldom at home. Everything happens in his absence. He realises that something is going on, but says and does nothing. He consciously or non-consciously sacrifices his daughter so as to calm his wife and to counter-balance their dysfunctional relationship.

The cost to the daughter of all this is very high. In order to survive her mother’s drinking her blood, she will usually idealise the absent father (sealing her own Shadow). She makes of him a good, sweet and calm person – “He’s quite different from mum, something else… Unfortunately, he has to work all the time…” .

I would only add a slight detail to this graceful portrait: that this sweet and calm person who has to work so hard is never actually present for her, to defend her from being devoured by the mother… That this sweet and calm person is incapable of taking on personal responsibility as a father, and instead prefers that his daughter be slaughtered if this will calm his wife’s problems and the Shadow of their sick relationship.

Commonly, in the girl’s fantasy, the relationship with the father is perfect, untouchable, pure. However, an outside eye might notice a subtle feature of this relationship, a feature of which the daughter is unaware: as a matter of fact, there is no relationship. The father, even though he’s still breathing, is rather like Cinderella’s dead, idealised father. They seldom meet, they never talk about anything, they never do anything together; nevertheless, this idealised imaginary figure is the girl’s consolation and refuge, so that she can survive her mother’s cannibalism.

Even if the daughter works to develop her awareness, it is scarcely possible that she will recognise her father’s responsibility as equal to her mother’s. She is conditioned always to need an imagined, idealised figure, without it ever occurring to her that this figure, instead of sitting up there on his throne, should have got down so as to save her from her mother’s sharp teeth and claws!

Finally, it should be noted that in a variation of this model the mother adopts a different tactic, so as to arrive at the same result. Using protection and concern as pretexts, she brutally and effectively imprisons the girl. She controls every aspect of her life, thoroughly checks her schoolwork, her friends, her entertainment, her activities, and so on.

***The boy.
In other versions of this basic scenario, when there is a boy on the stage, the mother is constantly on the attack, ceaselessly criticising her son for his inadequacy. And when she does not judge him openly, there is always the old phrase “you could do better”. In fact, her son is not good enough in her eyes because he cannot efficiently play the role of a good husband – regardless of the fact that he could never be that to her, that he could never take the place of the often absent or undesirable husband.

  The mother does not merely assign to her son the task of replacement, of filling her meaningless life with meaning; she also uses him as a weapon for attacking her husband, against whom she is enraged. When the son fails, as it will of course happen, her wrath is turned on him, thus locking up the mother’s own Shadow as well as the Shadow of her relationship with the father.

Something analogous seems to occur in cases of widowhood or where the father is an addict: alcohol, other substances, gambling. In this variation, the son does not idealise the father, even though he misses his company. Instead, while carrying the burden of his mother on his shoulders, he senses the absent father (dead or alive, no matter) at some vast distance, as if the father were living in another world.


41.b The parent’s self-sacrifice, the overprotected and broken ​child

At times the family’s Shadow vortex seizes the child, imposing their sacrifice (and consequently their definitive isolation from the inner child later on, in adult life). In such cases, the sacrifice is imposed through the parents’ manipulations. Such manipulations aim at their own psychological benefit and the fortification of their Shadows’ gates so that nothing escapes from in there to threaten their ideas about themselves and life.

The basic manipulative mechanism has to do with the parents’ need to put aside their own fearful feelings of futility, of emptiness and of the absence of meaning in their lives. So as to fortify their Shadows and close off such threatening feelings, parents have various ways of making the child the central and only meaning of their empty lives.

In some cases, a parent constantly transmits, directly or indirectly, on the self-sacrifice channel: “Everything I do, I do it for you and you cannot know what and how much I had to sacrifice for this”. In this way, the child receives a large number of many-layered messages. One is that a self-sacrifice is an act of high moral value – so the child senses an obligation to sacrifice herself (or himself) too, and when she does not wish to do so, overwhelming guilt is the result. Another is that she must always be grateful to the parent, and by extension, later, in adult life, to anyone who offers anything proclaiming his self-sacrifice.

However, deep inside, below consciousness, the child senses that the parent by her sacrifice only makes meaningful her own empty life while overlooking some fundamental needs of the child. So the child gets also angry – with silent, deep anger beyond awareness. He (or she) feels cheated, with important needs left unsatisfied, including acceptance and confirmation, respect for his integrity, personal choices and needs; what is more, he feels permanently indebted to the parent and that he, therefore, has to eternally fulfil the parent’s expectations.

A child may get totally lost under the weight of parental self-sacrifice and the projection of the parental Shadow; or may simply be unable to play the role demanded by the parent’s scenario and expectations. In any case, such children suffer greatly. They lose their way, they cannot build an identity. Rather as in the final example in the previous section, and to the astonishment of those around them who have over-emphasised self-sacrifice, they may become superficial, closed off, without vision or enthusiasm, self-interested and afraid to give, unable to excel in anything, reacting negatively against anything to do with the offering or acceptance of care.

In other cases, the parent does not promote self-sacrifice, but becomes overprotective and broadcasts a large number of other disastrous messages.

Let us take the apparently innocent utterance, “Put on your coat, it’s cold outside, you’ll get ill …” Usually, this really is an expression of care. However, it can also mean a great many other things, depending on the background against which it is said. For example: “I know that it is cold outside but you don’t know – because you are incapable of knowing this, or in no position to know it or to evaluate the situation”. Or then, “I know just how cold it is, but you don’t. I know that this kind of cold requires an overcoat, while you are incapable of deciding how to protect yourself”. Or, “I know that what I say is right while you cannot be right because you are young and incompetent, so if you don’t listen to me, you’ll get ill…” Moreover, the implicit continuation of this sentence may be “And if you get ill, it’s me who’ll have to run around looking after you”.

Overprotected children, even if they are not destroyed by becoming the fragile protagonists in the roles assigned by the parent,  cannot build any personal identity. They may even develop some parental aspects of self – those aspects which the parents had sealed in their own Shadow, behind the superficial excessive care shown in their over-protective behaviour. So such children may grow into indifferent, hard, egotistic, snobbish, aggressive, ironical adults; they may incorrigibly confuse care and attention with violence and oppression.

***Passing on the baton.
When children are dragged into such parental games of roles and projections, they are shaken by fear, sorrow, disappointment or anger. Not only are they unable to become aware of their own feelings, but they also lack any place to take refuge. On one hand, their whole world is the over-protective parental environment; on the other hand, the aspects of themselves that include such feelings as those just noted, are threatening aspects, as any wish to resist the destructive attraction of the vortex of the family’s black hole is also threatening.

  For survival, the solution is the Shadow, where the child’s aspects bearing such asphyxiating feelings are stored. When the child’s own Shadow becomes huge and frozen in adulthood, then we can see before us, ready-made and perfectly formed, the new protagonist of future dramas. We can see a tragic figure, to whom the family baton has been passed on. We can see a future abuser or a fully self-victimised personality standing right before us, ready for action.

This well-rehearsed protagonist of a future drama that has not yet been written or produced knows very well how to write it. In order to manage his or her dysfunctional relationship with her or his own Shadow, he or she will find someone with a complementary Shadow. Together, through repetitive scenarios, mutual projections and binding interdependence, they will perpetuate the distorted image that each has of the other. Sometimes one will see the other as the good fairy who will hopefully manage to break the spell; at other times one will see the other as a malign and incapable person to whom the task of breaking down the walls of the Shadow has been assigned, unsuccessfully (see sections 38, 39).

The fact is, though, that each time the scenario is played out again in adult life, the grown-up child will re-experience the same immense and unsustainable wilderness that was lived through in childhood. He or she, an adult by now, will continue to see the world through the child’s limited eyes; she or he still will not be able to see any possibilities of escape or change, having nothing left to do but to strengthen the walls of the Shadow and to project it on onto others through mutual non-conscious agreements. This poison, this infection, will, in turn, be passed on from generation to generation, supported by the delusions of the hypocritical modernism that in our times characterises our social infrastructures.

45  The Shadow and “the best I can do”

*** What is the meaning of “the best”?
Concerning the idea of creative adjustment, one particularly sensitive and important point is that from the perspective of holism any creative adjustment to any situation may be described as “the best” possible.

I know that the idea that whatever I do is always “the best I can do” may sound odd… But to grasp its deeper meaning let us look at a human being holistically. One important point is that we are not merely what we perceive ourselves to be in our conscious minds; rather, each of us is a whole which includes not only our conscious parts but also our non-conscious parts, among which our Shadow is included.

This means that we do not orient in life only according to our conscious perceptions about events and our selves, but are also affected by our Shadow. I mean that we are inevitably carrying our Shadow with us through time, like it or not, whether or not we know or accept this. In an analogy, if I have a crippled leg, I carry it with me wherever I go, even though I dislike this.

Moreover, let us keep in mind that:
• (a) “doing” is actually exchanging energy with the environment through interacting with it, and that
• (b) any process of energy exchange between systems in the universe naturally tends to use the largest possible number of available channels for energy flow.

So, since we are physical systems that constantly change over time, we naturally tend to change in a way that ensures the most and the most fluent energetic exchanges (the “best possible” interactions) between all our parts (conscious and non-conscious / Shadowed), as well as between our wholeness and the environment. To this way of thinking, state B into which we have moved from state A cannot be but the best place to which we could have moved, as an indivisible whole, starting from state A.

In other words,“best” here is meant as a dynamic equilibrium of energy between all the components of our being as we interact with our environment in a given situation.

*** The “best” is not always good or beneficial.
Of course, in my conscious mind, it may be that I think that state B is not the best one for me – I may even consider it wrong or bad. However, this is my way to understand things when I have in mind only my conscious aspects, whereas state B was not produced only to satisfy these but also to satisfy my non-conscious aspects.

In fact, in practice, state B is the only one to which I could have moved from state A. This is the only possibility in practice because, within all the theoretically possible next states from A, it is B that in practice provides the best energetic balance for my wholeness  – and physical systems always move to the energetically best possible state; “best”, as we already said, in the sense that it allows the most and the most fluent interactions between all our components – often far from whatever we may consciously think that we are and need.

For example, if in my Shadow there is the fear of quitting my job and searching for a new one in hard times, I cannot say five years later, “I was wrong not to change my job, then”. I cannot say such a thing because, five years ago, the best creative adjustment that I could make so as to balance both my conscious need for change and my non-conscious fear of change, was not to quit my job. Maybe today, after five years, I can do something different because my need for change and my fear to change interact differently – I have a different palette of creative adjustments. But this is only my present situation, which is different from my situation five years ago. Then, my best choice was not to quit whereas, now, it is to quit – both choices are best, each one at its own point in my time.

Here, it must be once more noted that doing “the best that I can” is not meant in the sense of a conscious choice but as the tendency of my being to change in the way most energetically favourable for all its parts while interacting with the world.

So, we can apply this approach in any situation. Even regarding people who abuse substances, who  are bullies, who commit crimes: they also do the best that they can do, because what they do is their way of providing energy balance to all their components – here,  can do (or cannot) refers to a whole composed of both conscious and Shadowed parts. That is to say, far beyond the way they may perceive themselves only in their mind, their Shadows are also part of them, affecting what they are doing.

While in all these cases people may clearly recognise in their minds that what they are doing harms themselves or those around them, in the end, they do what they do because this expresses both their conscious components and the non-conscious ones in their Shadows – regardless of whether the latter are dysfunctional and seem mysterious to the conscious mind.

*** An example.
Let us say, in an example deliberately exaggerated yet typical of the power of Shadow, that you are my business partner and at moment A I want to talk to you, having formed the firm intention of telling you that “this or that cannot go on” in our professional cooperation. In fact, I meet you at moment B and I start talking, but instead of expressing my intention, I talk about the weather and the past weekend. Let us see what is happening in this situation.

When, at moment A, I was planning to make my complaints, the aspect of my self that is afraid of you, or of the dissolution of our partnership, was sleeping within my Shadow. However, when, at moment B, I started speaking to you, that aspect naturally affected what I was saying, because state B had to include all my parts as best possible. If I were to have said to you what I had planned to tell you, fears would have emerged from within my Shadow. So, at that specific moment, the best for me way to be whole while talking to you was to talk about the weather and avoid challenging my Shadowed fears. My creative adjustment had to include also the non-conscious elements in my Shadow, no matter what my conscious intentions might be – this is why it was the best that I could do.

On the basis of my conscious knowledge of myself, I may believe that there could be no reason why I should not tell you what I had to tell you. However, when I was imagining myself telling you all I wanted to tell you, aggressive, angry, wild, I configured that conversation only on the basis of what I know (or prefer to know) about myself. But actually this draft I was sketching in my imagination was incomplete; data were missing: my Shadowed data…

*** I am always existentially responsible for the “best I can do”.
I would like to say more about this delicate and important point. As it was noted, the idea that I always do the best that I as a whole can do (as seen through the lens of creative adjustment) certainly does not mean that what I do is always good for me or for others. Perhaps I abuse dangerous drugs or murder someone; still, as a whole, I do not cease to do the best I can at a given moment.

However, to say, “I always do the best that I can”, does not diminish my final responsibility for my actions. My actions affect others and the world, so I am in every case responsible for them, and I cannot use “the best that I can” as an excuse…

Moreover, there is another very sensitive point in this matter. True, we are not responsible on the level of events for the traumas we suffered as children and fed our Shadow; the same goes for the misfortunes and downturns of the present that overcome us (accidents, broader sociopolitical or economic circumstances, illness, and so on).

However, even if we are not responsible for the events that shaped us, we have full existential responsibility for the management of their consequences – we have the responsibility, not in a moral way but simply because they happened to us and not to anyone else.

If a drunk driver runs me over and I lose my legs, I am not responsible for the event itself, but the accident happened to me and I am responsible for deciding how I am going to deal with it. Whether I’ll spend my whole life crying about this accident, if I remain passively angry for the rest of my life or dissolve into despair, or whether I accept my condition and find out what I can do within its framework:  this will be a matter of my best possible creative adjustment. It is an issue of my own.

Consequently, this “what I do is always the best I can do” does not free me from existential responsibility.


46  The Shadow itself as a creative adjustment

When we store a threatening aspect of self in the Shadow, we do this so as to survive as a complete entity in a situation generating threatening and insupportable feelings.

Moreover, we also attempt to survive, whenever we try to keep the Shadow isolated in situations in which the present resonates with a threatening past; we need to keep our Shadow well sealed off, because the potential escape of one of our aspects from the Shadow would be experienced as a mortal threat to our present.

So we can say this: both the creation of the Shadow and its fortification (or its maintenance in the present) are no more than ways of effecting creative adjustments to life…

*** In strictly rational thought, the Shadow should be useless.
If we believe that what we are is only what we consciously define ourselves to be with our mind, the maintenance of the Shadow is a form of protection which is theoretically unnecessary. Since in such a line of thinking we choose to believe that we are only what we think that we are, it would be pointless to protect ourselves in the present from the repetition of past threats. I say pointless, because, when thinking like that, in our adult present we are supposedly able to deal with something that in the past we experienced as catastrophic.

That is, a “hardcore” rationalist cannot accept the idea of the Shadow or that a past threat can expand and greatly affect our present life; nor, indeed, can that person accept that our present reality can be transformed into a past nightmare because of past experiences.

*** In everyday experience, the Shadow exists anyway.
However, holistically, we are beings composed both of conscious and of non-conscious parts. Moreover, we exist on three levels, on all of which every one of our moments is composed: mind, body and emotion. So we inevitably exist dynamically in time as wholes. And we continuously need to orchestrate our conscious parts with the energy emerging from our non-conscious parts, in order to manage new and effective creative adjustments that will in every case include mind, body and emotion.

In fact, when an aspect of my self long-hidden in the Shadow is tending to be manifested in a present situation, I really do experience a threat in the present, because I am flooded by the once-threatening feelings that had accompanied that aspect. I am fully re-experiencing this threat, even if this cannot be understood by my logical mind, simply because my logical mind is not the only level on which I exist.

For example, however much we explain to someone that their fear of flying is logically baseless, that flying is much safer than road transport, however, well they understand this with their mind, on a plane their heart rate will rise, they will tremble like a leaf and have breathing difficulties. They will still experience panic.

In other words, my mind may function well in my present but body and emotion vibrate as if they were still living in the Shadow’s past time.

Changing only the cognitive part of any experience does not mean that we are also changing its emotional and bodily elements. (For this reason, I for one believe that any kind of psychotherapy cannot be limited to the cognitive/mental level, but has to include every level of experience).
{71} As for the testament which made me an inheritor of the earth, out of fear that they might steal it from me, I ripped it to a thousand pieces and scattered it to the winds. But I retained the most beautiful words / which I use when speaking with you. […] Deserted children who quietly depart from childhood / carefree birds which go on leave for an entire year / statues too have their melancholic moments / poems – keys for madness or the sky / reputation – that slaughterhouse / I dream of a hospital for ill fairy tales, of swans in the hats of the condemned, of laurels for the defeated / we the forgotten ones, for whom a smile suffices to pass beyond the bounds of the world / Goodbye, goodbye … Nothing will be rectified … [Leivaditis, Tasos – 10]


47.a The child who is always wrong, and “magical ​thinking”

Life is not easy for children, despite the happy memories that we adults tend to project onto that age, idealising it because of the harshness of adult life. In fact, on the one hand, children grow up having continuously to adjust to an adult world; a world definitely not made for children – and not all parents are able to offer substantial support. On the other hand, there is often the command given informally by the parent to the child, assigning to him or her the heavy duty of always taking care to satisfy the parents’ expectations and respect parental rules and needs (where  “respect” means “obey”). 

So children may often feel deep agony. And as organisms, in their wholeness, and non-consciously, they need to devise ways to creatively adjust and to survive, because sometimes to limit oneself to “this is life, life’s like that” may generate insupportable feelings. Of course, there are many means of creative adjustment in childhood which are not the subject of this book; what is interesting for our study is that among the several ways in which children adjust to and manage the agonies of growing up and of parental expectations, is the way in which aspects of self that involved paralysing feelings are sealed into a well cemented Shadow – so now let’s go further into this.

Children may employ their Shadow as a creative adjustment by using several mechanisms and one of them is called “magical thinking”: the imagining of arbitrary connections between things and events that cannot be linked with actual causal connections, so that the child can sense some kind of explanation for the toughness and incomprehensibility of growing up. Moreover, the scenarios of such sequences of magical thinking are often based on a sense of guilt: “My parents are divorcing because I was naughty”, “I got ill because I stole a bar of chocolate”, “My brother broke his arm because I did not empty my plate”, and suchlike.

We could say that magical thinking, based on a sense of being wrong and of not being good enough, is a way in which children confine to the Shadow aspects of self that are flooded with threatening feelings. This is why I think (a) that a primary sense of  guilt and of being a mistake takes root within us very early in life and (b)  that this has much to do with the concept of the Shadow.

In fact, as has already been noted, it is easy for a child to feel, “I am to blame for what happened”. The adult is a god and so can do no wrong. Besides, our environment is usually very manipulatively effective in teaching us that as children we should never show fear and insecurity in face of the unknown in life, that we must be good, mature children and learn to need the things that our environment wants us to need. Then, as we pass through the various phases of childhood and are bombarded with needs and desires of our own, we find out that our own needs are often incompatible with what we were taught that we should need. The result is that we feel being wrong in our core, wrong because we need what we need and we are what we are, wrong because we failed to become the one our environment expected from us to become.


47.b The adult sense of “error” as an echo from the Shadow and the roots of our adult need for explanations

Children are not the only beings that feel that life is tough. As adults, we have thousands of reasons to feel agonies similar to those of the growing child – on another scale, yet of a similar nature. Survival never was and is not easy for a human being, at any age. In adult life we cannot control what our next moment will be, nor the flow of physical events; in fact, things in adult life are at times overturned spectacularly and unpleasantly, for no obvious reason. And it is natural to feel tiny and weak in the face of the nature of life, inexplicable, chaotic and illogical as this is for our human minds.

Consequently, in hard times, we need to enclose in the Shadow those aspects of our selves that carry any such horrific feelings of impending disaster. To do so, we often employ adult versions of “magical thinking” as a way to creatively adjust and seal off in our Shadow the intolerable sense that life can be so hard, blind and chaotic.

Guilt and the sense of being wrong and not good enough are still the fulcrum when we try magically to connect unfortunate events within some ordered structure, to explain them and so to banish to the Shadow all the terrified aspects of our self. As we wall these up in our Shadow we may come to resemble children who feel guilty when accused by the environment of not being good enough to handle the difficulties of growing up (see section 47a). In such cases we tend to see ourselves as having made some fatal mistake because of which things got messed up: “If I were bolder and had made that ‘phone call …”, “If I were more cool-headed …”, “If I’d got to you before you crossed the street …”, “If I hadn’t missed that train …”, “Ah! Then I shouldn’t have done that …”, “How did I let things go on like that?”, “Why do I make so many mistakes?”, “My mistake was that …”.

Of course that which in these cases we call explanation does not actually explain anything; rather, it is just a creative adjustment to the fact that we are beings with a  desperate need to seek reasons, meaning, logic, a rationale for things, since the universe often displays the bad habit of improvising without taking us into account. So we have the impression that if we understand something through causality (or create the illusion that we understand), we shall be able to control it. This need to understand why this or that happened becomes the more demanding, the more the facts of our life appear incoherent and unexpected – as happens when we suddenly find ourselves in difficulty because of large-scale events such as war, economic collapse, natural disasters, accidents or illness.

When we are faced by such events an explanation, any explanation, reflects our deep need to control things. Consequently, in our adult lives it is easy to idealise and overvalue control, effectiveness and discipline. It is also very easy to create a polarity between what is collectively considered correct (meaning social success and acceptance) and what is seen as mistaken (meaning failure and rejection), because we like to think that what is considered to be objectively correct can lead to the control we so much need.

Nevertheless, what is significant here is that even in some of our adult creative adjustments we may keep on using magical thinking and the concepts of error (of being wrong), of being guilty, of not being good enough, in order to establish an arbitrarily labelled logical and acceptable order for things.

When hard times come, by employing the pseudo-causative mechanism that might be called “these bad things happened because I was wrong and so everything that happened is my fault”, we like to think that we have managed to create logical connections between events that seem to have no apparent connection. In this way we calm ourselves, because now “I know why this happened” and we enclose in our Shadow whatever threatening feelings may be produced when we suffer the inexplicable cruelty of life.

47.c The non-existence of “error”​

On the basis of what has been noted in the previous sections, we could say that from a holistic viewpoint, and in contrast with a fundamental idea promoted in most of our education, the very idea of “error” is only a human conception, an abstract construct of our minds.

In systems theory, there can never be an error because what all physical systems always do is simply to interact as wholes seeking the best possible states that would allow the easiest and richest energy exchanges between them and between the components of each system (see section 45).

So, it can be concluded that there can be no error in any physical process because any process is only a matter of balance between interacting components (Theodorou, 2018d).

We too as wholes need to interact functionally with other people and we also need all our sub-systems (all our organs and levels of existence) to interact functionally among themselves to support our creative adjustments in everyday life.

This balancing process does not and cannot know the concept of “error” because any creative adjustment is a natural process in which energy streams self-organise their flow.

If we think that the results of our creative adjustments had unpleasant consequences (so we were wrong), the error is only a mental construction; it is a projection of our beliefs and thoughts onto natural processes – neither a  physical system nor any process of energy flow can ever be wrong.

So we constantly adjust creatively to life events by doing the best we can do including our conscious aspects as well as those in our Shadow. The sense of being wrong, and a kind of correctness that exists objectively and which we need to attain, are only features of our modern western societies. Thus, when we feel that our own existence is wrong we simply diminish ourselves. It is as if our primitive inner child, well hidden in our Shadow, finds cracks in our adult structure and worms its way out, greatly upsetting us. The result is that, when in hard times we are affected by the echoes of our Shadow, we often feel like an unsuccessful captain who made a mistake and ran the ship aground.

Nevertheless, what I did at a given past moment is what I did and I can see its meaning as I wish through the filter of a present perspective – and in future I shall of course see it in yet a different way. But I should remember that then, in the past, I was acting in a certain situation according to perceptions that differ from my present perceptions of those situations.

This is exactly why we could say that, in any past situation, I was acting in the best possible way that was then available for my wholeness (as my wholeness was then) in my field of life (as my field of life was then).

To conclude: if we think that “what I do is always the best that I can do”, then, the words “error” or “mistake”, existentially, make no sense. However, I just note once more something very important: I should recall that to see my actions in terms of creative adjustment is not an excuse, not an alibi for having done what I did, not forgiveness, not a denial of personal responsibility in life, but simply an acceptance that my wholeness is what it is at any given moment – at another moment it will be something else.

So, we can say that, then, when our inner child felt as it felt and desperately needed support, we certainly could not have done otherwise than what we did – what we did was the only possible way to act. That is why nobody can ever say that our inner child “should have known” what was considered by the adults to be right and that it acted mistakenly because it was by its nature a wicked child.

To be precise, our inner child had no obligation to know anything at all about what is wrong and what is right – just because it was a child…

So, in any case, to say, “I am angry with myself for making that mistake…” is actually to cut my own being in two; one half of me does to the other half what others once did to my whole being as a child (in Gestalt therapy this process is called “retroflection”). What really happens is that one half of me rejects my other half. To scold one half of ourselves is like scolding our past existence – it is as if we were to blame a child for not possessing an adult’s knowledge. This is futile; it is to ask the impossible of children, since if they possessed that knowledge they would no longer be children.

Above all, it is important to remember that even when I feel shrunken or incomplete, at the core I am still something whole, something complete in what I am doing, even when my course looks like the zigzag staggering of a drunk, even when I intend to do one thing but in practice do something quite different and I think that I disobey by mistake the commands of my mind. Even in such times I am still a whole who is simply feeling incomplete in a specific situation, trying to become a different whole in the immediate future and in the next phase of that specific situation.


50.b Shadow, body

*** The Shadow’s resonance in the body.
Let us take into account (a) that any aspect of our self isolated in the Shadow includes everything that once I needed to organise my experience in a particular situation and (b) that such an aspect remained neutralised and is not manifested.

This means that, since my body is the foundation of every experience and of every aspect of myself, whatever aspect of myself is enclosed in the Shadow has inevitably something to do also with my body. Or to put it another way, my body bears reflections of the Shadow imprinted upon it. Whatever we do, our body has all our stories engraved on it – even the secret chapters that were stored away in the Shadow.

These Shadowed areas of my body affect not only my stance and the form of my body but also everything I experience, and how I touch or do anything with objects or other people whenever I move. So the parts of my physical construction that carry reflections of my Shadow remain inaccessible to my conscious awareness. For example, I do not “feel – sense” at all that curve of the neck, that shrug of the shoulders, the way I pull myself together around my belly, if all these features of my body have to do with Shadowed aspects of myself. I may see all these in the mirror if they are pointed out to me, but they do not mean anything for me: it is as if a local anaesthetic of awareness had been applied to them.

To be sure, by all this I do not mean to say that through the interpretation of some characteristics of the body it will be possible to understand an overgrown and dysfunctional Shadow.

It is simply that if we work systematically on the development of bodily awareness, we will be able to appreciate more deeply the cost of the Shadow’s participation in our actions. In this sense, bodily awareness can become an excellent point of departure to explore the high costs of a frozen Shadow.    

*** Time’s electric shocks.
Let us remember the example from section 2: for some time I have wanted to tell you about an issue that is very important to me, but it is as if some unknown force holds me back and I do not risk sharing. In this example we could say that two time streams collide.

(a) In the present, since my need to talk to you arises, I am calling on some aspect of myself to undertake this mission; some feelings and bodily responses referring to the present, therefore, emerge anyway.
(b) At the same time, let us say that the present situation resonates with some past experience of mine in which “I speak, I share” meant a threat (any kind of threat whatever); therefore it is as if I sense a past time as activated too, running in parallel with my present. This past time is able to produce feelings and bodily responses that are getting integrated with those generated in my present time. The result is an overall final present experience that is very strongly coloured by a past.

What will happen? Since in whatever I do I am always a whole, the balance of my wholeness (conscious and non-conscious together) will most probably come to the conclusion “don’t speak, don’t share” or “talk only about the weather” – irrespective of the way that my conscious mind insists “I want to open up and share my problem” with you, and irrespective of the fact that I do not understand what is holding me back.

Such a transition from my present need to speak to my final “don’t speak” because of the invasion of a past time involves a conflict not only between two time streams but also a conflict between two different states of my body.

The lived body, the experienced body of “speak” is radically different from the lived body of “don’t speak”. So, I am running hot and cold – one body state in contrast with another – as if I was giving my body shocks with two electrodes; one from the past, one from the present.

My body gets distorted when the shocks of these alternating times are forced upon it. It suffers and shakes. My mind may not record any of this, or if something registers, it is not comprehended – like unexplained twitches of the needle of a seismograph.


53  3 ways to avoid the dance with the Shadow

First of all, as we saw in Chapter C, there are attempts to avoid the initially unpleasant and threatening connection with our Shadow by fortifying it through the over-functioning of consciousness, through projection, by means of various assignments or repetitive scenarios. All these simply deepen the rift inside us and further cement the Shadow in.

There are, however, other dysfunctional mechanisms by means of which we fail to make a functional connection with our Shadow. We shall mention three of these, two of them in the next section (53a).
The first way is the attempt to understand (to decode) the Shadow through logic and mind.
The second way is to attempt to overcome its effects by fully identifying with it – by diving right into the darkness (a process named “catharsis”).
In section 53b we shall see the third mechanism: the attempt to avoid the Shadow and its supposed negativity, by emphasising some kind of the so-called “positive thinking”.    

53.a The 1st and 2nd way to avoid the Shadow: (1) cognitive understanding of the Shadow and (2) “catharsis”

*** The futility of decoding the Shadow.
Many people believe that when we are feeling a part of our self is escaping our control, it is enough to investigate this phenomenon, as if it was a puzzle in one of those stories about Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot. That if we use our mind in conjunction with thorough observation we will able to break down its fortifications and fully understand what is hidden in there. That if we can interpret and analyse these contents, we shall set both them and ourselves free.

I would say that here we have a variation upon the intellectualisation of the Shadow (see sections 26, 27). The difference is that while there the mind and the over-functioning of consciousness aimed to fence off, forget or erase the Shadow, here the same mechanisms aim to resolve and decode the Shadow. 

However, if one knows in her or his mind what it is that one frantically avoids and if one hears or reads about these matters in books, webpages and articles, does one automatically get rid of what one was avoiding? Certainly not: too much emphasis on mind and consciousness cannot be effective here.

Why? Because experience is always registered on three interconnected layers simultaneously: mentally, bodily and emotionally (see section 6). So, let’s say that in our present time we understand mentally something important that happened in the past because of which we closed off in the Shadow one or another aspect of self, together with its accompanying sensations and emotions.

For example, I may say, “I remember that my father used to beat me and my sister”.
If I refer only mentally to this past experience, on the one hand it means that I know mentally what was happening and I can clearly describe it; however, on the other hand, it does not necessarily mean that I have any contact with the bodily and emotional layers of those horrible experiences so that I can attribute some emotional meaning to them.

Maybe I mentally know that those were hard and painful moments, but I remain desensitized regarding their overall meaning for me because I have enclosed their emotional and bodily elements in my Shadow. Such elements, frozen in there, remain pending in a timeless psychic space of mine; they are not completed experiences (that is, they are “unfinished business” – see section 2), always charged and ready to resonate and vibrate, affecting my present time whenever present situations recall the past traumatic scenes.

Understanding my past and especially my previous hard times only mentally does not mean that I eliminate their emotional and bodily effects in my present; the traumatic past continues to have a decisive effect in the present because its emotional and bodily aspects remain still enclosed in my Shadow, keeping their past charge alive.    

*** The myths of “catharsis” and of jumping into the Shadow.
It has already been noted that by just seeing seeing the Shadow as a mental puzzle to be understood and resolved is a futile attempt to get in touch with our Shadow’s energy; another equally futile attempt to connect with it takes an absolutely opposite approach.

In such an approach, one attempts to completely identify oneself with the Shadow and to neutralise it cathartically by diving into it (thus bringing back past traumas to be relived in the present).

However, the only thing one achieves by going straight and fully into the darkness of one’s Shadow is that one is swallowed up in the re-activated past traumas, is gravely harmed, and may even be trapped and lost in such an identification, for the following reason.

Let’s say that at moment X in my present I dive into the memory of past traumatic moment A, when I had closed off an aspect of my self in the Shadow. Full mental, bodily and emotional identification with the past moment A, would be like erasing everything else that characterises my now moment X, making it a copy of my past moment A. This, though, cannot happen, because of the way our experience is composed: each of our moments is composed only in our “here and now”, and it is absolutely unique, characterised by its own particular experiential elements (see section 5a).

So, the present moment X and the past moment A are by definition different. And, by diving into the past traumatic moment A and bringing it fully alive in my Now, displacing my present moment X, I achieve only one thing, which is tragic; I am tearing off all the unique experiential features of my present moment X (I am actually adding them to my Shadow, enlarging it), I get re-traumatised, while I fool myself that I have travelled to the past and resolved my trauma. I am in fact creating an eclipse of  my present, Shadowing it through my re-traumatisation.

It is one thing experiencing in the present the deep-frozen threatening feelings of the past by placing them against a by-definition different and safe present background; it is quite another thing dissolving and eliminating my present foundation, reopening an old wound and diving straight into its centre. I shall certainly lose my present self-sense and identity.   

It is as if I were to deliberately forget the safety that I have gained in my present (simply because now I am something different from that which I was when I was traumatised), and then throw this safety off a cliff. Or one might say it is as if I were to shrink what “I am” now into something that then “I was”  while losing completely that which “I am” in the present.
Catharsis is not only dysfunctional, but may even be extremely dangerous.


53.b The 3rd way to avoid the Shadow: The compulsion to positive thinking

Another, somewhat fatuous attempt to connect with the Shadow has to do with a broader, widespread and fashionable tendency in psychology, or rather in popular psychology: the idea that we always get (or attract) whatever we think, that in one sense through our so-called “thought-forms” (of cognitive content) we are able to selectively draw to ourselves elements from our surroundings. Consequently, if I think positively, if I am an optimist, I shall attract events that are good for me…

So, it is said, if we change what we think, then we will affect the field around us and also change the people and the situations that we draw to us. If I firmly believe that I will succeed in something, rather than fail, then my belief will draw what I need towards me and I will succeed. By the same strange logic, with not the appropriate or with negative thoughts we condemn ourselves to failure! In any case, some believe that we are the ones who by our thoughts lay out the road ahead of us at will. There seems to be a widespread idea that if we want something with all the power of our being, the universe will conspire to give it to us …

I most certainly disagree, and I do not mind being seen as a heretic with regard to such faddish,  epidemic ideas. I think that we often place exaggerated emphasis on the need for positive thinking and optimism because we desperately need to do something to cope with our deep existential agonies. Indeed, we do so to a point where this forms a kind of new ethic.

However, the only result is to strengthen the wall that separates us from our Shadow; in there, these terrifying ontological agonies can be isolated from awareness, well hidden behind our illusion of controlling things with the power of our mind. Personally, as I shall explain in the following pages, I take a quite different view of seeing the indifference or benevolence that we often project onto the universe.    

*** The significance of the way we think.
First of all, I do not doubt that our manner of thinking is of the highest importance for our choices. It is indeed the filter through which we build a framework to contain our feelings and our praxis in this world. Furthermore, the discussion of ideas and theories, clear and focused thinking, as well as an emphasis on the bright side of life, are certainly things that motivate, ground and organise our being in this world.

Looking at it this way, both focused thought and our enthusiastic optimism, together with the positive orientations in our thought, might really help us to achieve aims. They also offer us, if nothing else, some solid  basis for vision, hope and consolation.

*** The way we think cannot be a cure-all recipe.
However, as has been mentioned several times, the mind is only one of the highly complex elements of the phenomenon that we call “I exist” – in a humanistic perspective this is a holistic phenomenon, in which no element can be considered separable from or more important than any other. Thus, under no circumstances may we consider that what we do through the course of life is absolutely and solely determined by our thoughts and our logical conscious understanding.

In section 6, we saw that our experience is always a whole, an indissoluble compound of mind, body and emotion –  a whole (a “gestalt”). I therefore cannot influence anything with my conscious thought alone, because there can be no thought without the body, the emotions and all the non-conscious elements that constitute perhaps 88% of the composition of my experience (Stern, 2004).

Whatever I do in my present so as to alter something that concerns me from my past, cannot be affected by my thoughts unless my action involves the whole of my experience, including body and feeling.

Precisely because our experience is a whole, we may of course use mind and imagination to plan and decide to do whatever we want, however we want to; what we end up doing, though, will be determined by what we are as a whole, consciously and non-consciously, and not only of conscious thought – especially if I host a large and frozen non-conscious Shadow.

Thinking that with my mind I am able to fully control my praxis in life regardless of my feelings and sensations, would be to see my mind like a top-floor apartment hovering in the air without the support of the lower floors (feelings and sensations), like cream and glacé cherries on a cake with a void underneath instead of sponge and custard …

I might swear a thousand times that I shall not call you again, thinking as positively as I can about my so far unsuccessful attempts to get over you, but then at some unsuspected moment I find the handset at my ear and I am saying, “Hi, I just called, y’know, see how you’re doing …”. Then again, let’s say that I have just lost some of my excess kilos and it seems quite impossible that I should put them back on – I am thinking positively, optimistically, full of enthusiasm and drive; then I suddenly realise that my old dietary habits are back and the dreaded kilos are piling on again…

I claim that if I want something in the present and I constantly fail to achieve it, it is not my way of thinking that is to blame, but rather that my Shadow has taken a hand. Constant failure may be a form of protection against the manifestation of the energy of buried in the Shadow experiences (“unfinished business” – see section 2).

For example, let us say that my father never approved my choice in my professional life because he wanted me to stay in the family business. I may constantly and non-consciously sabotaging what I do in my professional life because this is a way to keep alienated in my Shadow the aspect of myself with anger, fear and sorrow that would accompany an open conflict with my father.

***Negative thinking as a consequence of failure, not a cause.
Concluding, I would say that somewhere hidden in the non-conscious jungle of our psyche there is found the kingdom of our silent partner in life, our Shadow, which can participate with determinative effect in our successes and failures. Let’s say, once in my past I wished to demand various things, but my environment hurt me and filled me with dread; in this case, in the present I may be hesitant and fearful; I want to push things forward, I want justification, but I usually fail before even starting. This is not because of my negative thinking; it happens because the aspects of myself needed to organise my driving force are not available; they are trapped in the Shadow.

Negative thinking is only superficial; it is the result and not the cause of what I name “my failures” – it is normal to develop negative thinking after several “failures”, especially if I see that they are following some pattern in a repetitive scenario that I cannot consciously control. However, in such cases “my failures” are produced by much more profound processes, even before my action plans have taken shape in my mind.

To be sure, as was noted above, it is certain that the pleasant feelings produced by positive thinking are beneficial; this is an effect which has to do with certain substances that are secreted in the body, such as neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and others) that affect our mood as well as the efficiency of CNS function and thus our thinking – conscious or not (Andrew Wilcox, 2018, personal communication).

But if positive thinking can certainly help us, I think that it is a thousand times more helpful to permit to ourselves to express what we were keeping unexpressed: a deep weeping of hot tears, a shout from the guts, the powerful heartbeat of suspended fear, or the devastating trembling of suppressed anger. (It should not be forgotten that all these must be expressed from a strong and safe present position, not through catharsis – see section 53a).   

When from our present we re-own an aspect that was enclosed in the Shadow, we liberate the energy that was expended on keeping it confined in the Shadow; the result is that we become able to use more functionally our potential for our creative adjustments (see section 44).

Contrariwise, if I focus only on my mind and abuse myself in the name of positive thinking, then it is as if I were to split my mind from my body and my feelings, as if I were to mutilate my wholeness and push my inner child further into the Shadow.

So instead of looking at myself in the mirror every morning and forcing a smile, or telling myself how great I am and that I will succeed in whatever I want because I want it so much or maybe because the universe is moved by my wish and takes my side – rather, I should try something else. I could try to respectfully and tenderly accept and embrace my wounds and enrich my awareness of how my past experiences are acting on my present wholeness; I could make room in my present for my past hurts; I could embrace my inner child, bringing its frozen feelings back to life in my present.

Besides, if things were otherwise and positive thinking was a magic wand, we could get rid of our dependencies much more easily, whether these had to do with substance abuse, gambling, alcohol, the internet or some catastrophically dependent erotic passion.

In the very end, functional positive thinking appears to be my acceptance of what I am in my wholeness, rather than any insistence on seeing myself as cheerful and optimistic.


56  The importance of the “paradoxical theory ofchange”

*** The core of a fascinating idea.
I think it should be clear by now that when I fail to take into account the influence of the Shadow on my path through life, I cut myself in two and only half of me plans my steps. So at some point my stressed and frightened Shadowed half draws me violently backwards – often, much to my surprise. This happens (a) because my non-conscious Shadowed parts are in fact mine (they belong to my wholeness), (b) because my being moves on as a whole whether I like it or not; so, what will be the direction of my next move in time, is a matter of my wholeness and not just of my conscious mind.

This means that in a holistic orientation to our path through life (such as is the central idea in all these pages), every new step is derived from the wholeness of the previous step.

Thus, full acceptance of the entirety of the previous step is a precondition for any authentic move to the next. It would appear that, as is said in Gestalt therapy, we “allow” change, rather than imposing change through the force of our thought and imagination.

These processes were described by Arnold R. Beisser in 1970 in an article which became well-known as a corner-stone of Gestalt therapy, entitled “the paradoxical theory of change”. (Beisser was a promising psychiatrist who was left severely physically disabled at the age of 25, which did not prevent him from following a successful professional and academic career for the next 40 years).

The paradox in Beisser’s theory is a paradox only for those who confine themselves to established ideas about human power, who consider that people direct their course in life only in ways set out by the mind (Theodorou, 2018f). However, with the aforementioned holistic conception, we may regard as natural Beisser’s observation that:

The more a person struggles in the direction of becoming someone who does not fully accept what they are as a whole in their Now, more that person stays the same. In contrast, the more someone accepts and becomes whatever she or he is as a whole in his/her Now, positive or negative, optimistic and depressive too, motivated but also frightened, then the more valid and significant are the changes that can be produced. The direction of change may not be that which this person imagined or wished for, but it will at least be valid, will be authentic.

From this point of view, the “paradoxical theory of change” forms a solid foundation on which to build up everything we have said in the previous section about a functional acquaintance with our Shadow.

*** The fantasy of a future self.
People often identify the positive with the pleasant and the easy. Moreover, at our most important crossroads we want ready-made solutions. We like to imagine an illusory dream world where a divine hand will magically remove our difficulties. In this way, lounging in safety on our sofa, without being troubled by unpleasant or negative feelings, we like to keep the delusion that carrying out a change is the same as wishing or thinking about the change. 

In other words, o person attempting to change a situation with limited awareness of the starting point of that change, prefers to focus on the expected result of the change, instead of on its possibly painful process. That is why, even before starting to undertake change, such a person may create the fantasy of some future self, which is as he or she wishes to become after the change.

Such a future self may say decisively “I shall start the  diet tomorrow, I am 100% sure, because I want terribly to enjoy the benefits of being without my extra kilos – to feel beautiful, sexy, charming, attractive”, “That was it, I cannot depend on her anymore… this is a terrible relationship and this time I am going for sure to split up”, “Eh, now I feel it, I can’t stand my misfortune anymore … this time I feel very strong, I am definitely going to make this step I always wished so much to realise”, “This sadness is killing my best moments… this period of grief has to end and so I must connect with the bright side of life and think positively to leave aside what has happened”, “I am definitely going to find ways to calm down my anger”.

However, all these statements are only fantasies spoken by an imagined self and such kind of fantasies are sooner or later brought down by real events.
The diet does not begin because there are always other priorities.
The break-up does not happen and the relationship remains dependent and abusive (they may even get married because they love each other and loneliness is hard and what to do out there …).
The anger keeps one exploding destructively no matter the breathing techniques, the auto-suggestions, the meditations, the effort to love and sympathise all people. The years go by and the step is never actualised because there is always bad luck.
The grief remains inexplicably suspended and keeps on shadowing the bright moments of life as well as creating a devastating sadness, dark feelings and very negative thoughts.   

*** What is really positive may not be agreeable or easy in a holistic perspective.
In contrast and in line with “the paradoxical theory of change”, I will support my course through the various phases of grief if, instead of opposing the grief, I get into it (provided that I manage to feel well-grounded and safe in my present).

I will start my diet when I shall connect with my present unhappiness because of my extra kilos and not with my imagined happiness after I will have lost them.
I will create chances to overcome what I see as my misfortune if I “become” (if I accept) what I see as my weak aspect; that is, if I just let myself flow with my weakness, without in any way forcing myself to see it as something negative that has to be beaten by my strength.
I can break a dependent or abusive relationship when I manage to “become” (to feel in my core) the real cost of my dependency, instead of forming theories and excuses about it.
I will calm my current, uncontrollable and disastrous outbursts of unreasonable anger if I accept that I have isolated past deeper angers in the Shadow, rather than by trying to stay artificially serene in my present by endless and excessive meditation, by studying techniques of anger management, by repeated auto-suggestions that “I must stay calm and not get angry”. (Meditation can be a very beneficial practice, for sure, but as pointless as any other practice when I use it to try to “forget” the energy springing from my Shadow).


57  Embracing our inner child: the other, the alternative end to the happy end in fairy tales

*** The parent of our inner child.

Taking a metaphorical view of our Shadowed aspects in childhood, which we symbolically called the “inner child”, these aspects are left with primitive and unprocessed emotions, as for them time was frozen at the moment when they were alienated into the Shadow.

To connect with the energy of the Shadow means precisely this: to manage our inner child carefully, to see it – to feel those old primitive feelings from a stable present position, and to accept them; actually, it is to see our inner child, with its pain and desperation, while knowing that now, as adults, we are not endangered by those ancient feelings; we are not endangered because we have in any case become something more than we were when we were first experiencing those feelings as a tremendous threat.

However, if we attempt this acceptance in our Now, we have to know that this kind of acceptance is chiefly experiential and expressed in the language of emotion – in no case only in that of thought.

It is only by recognising this that we shall be able to enter our inner child’s frozen time; only in this way will we break through the envelope of the timeless moment in which Peter Pan was imprisoned so as to be saved from solitude and abandonment, remaining forever a superficially carefree child but with endless pain, anger, fear and grief inside (Kelley – Laine, 2005).

So, we who are the future image of our inner child will finally become a kind of functional parent for that child (or perhaps an elder sibling… – in any case, someone who cares about that child, someone able to embrace it from a safe present time, accepting and confirming all its aspects). Then, to continue the metaphor, the child will calm down, fall asleep, find serenity in our arms – and so, as we stop seeing it as threatening, unwanted and ugly in our eyes, it will feel loved and at once become beautiful.

*** If fairy tales were true life stories, the endings would not be the same.
There are many reasons why fairy tales need to have happy endings (see section 35a). If, though, they were real-life scenarios, and in accordance with what is being said here, the endings would be otherwise. Let us take the point of view of some Shadowed aspects of self, as symbolised by well known personages in fairy-tales and let us imagine that these personages  have visitors from the future – from future aspects of self that have become able to see, accept and confirm them.

* Snow White would not be saved by a blue-blooded prince. Instead, another, adult Snow White would come from the future, like an elder sister, to awaken Snow White through tenderness.

* Correspondingly, a future version of the Sleeping Beauty would turn up so as to support and embrace her sleeping image. So that the Sleeping Beauty, at first crawling or on her knees, might then find the strength to stand up and touch her frozen kingdom, bringing it back to life.

* The ugly frog will find serenity when he stops insisting on being kissed as a condition for his transformation into a beautiful prince. He will accept himself when a future self supports him in his realisation and acceptance that it is not necessary to become a handsome prince, that maybe he never was and will never be one and that this fact matters not at all because he is beautiful anyway in his own unique way, just as he is.

* The Beast needs to learn ways of respecting other people, instead of insisting that they accept his bad behaviour – a future self will visit him and teach him what to do with his deep primary anger.

* The poltergeist will leave our house in peace only when we dare to climb down the stairs into the dark cellars of our house and embrace our dark feelings, recalling emotionally what once happened down there – but never forgetting that there is a staircase to climb up back to the light.

58  The Shadow, a dish of fruit and a distorting ​mirror

*** The fruit dish.
It seems to me that another metaphor for the process of our connection with the Shadow could be the following: to see a human being as a dish loaded with fruit (our potential aspects of the self). When the dish is small, it cannot hold all the fruit so some pieces fall and are lost (our aspects falling inside the Shadow – at any age). During our childhood, perhaps some people in our environment (parents, carers), whose role was to become a temporary reinforcement or extension of the dish, did not manage to carry out their task effectively; or, if it is adult life we’re talking about, we stumbled over an important obstacle and broke off a large piece of the dish.

Sometimes we advance through time in the belief that we are still small or broken dishes, constantly spilling fruit and asking idealised Others to become the support we did not get, or to help us to pick up the fruit, or to glue back the broken piece of the dish – but none of these are things that can really happen in the present.

In all, though, there is something that can be done, which is to feel that we have grown up, that we can effectively devise ways and tools to keep the fruit with its fascinating flavours in our current dish, while, in parallel, we can say good bye for ever to what has fallen – besides, each kind of fine and tasty fruit in our dish is certainly able to carry on producing new kinds of fruit in our present.

*** The distorting mirror.
In conclusion: we exiled in the Shadow some aspects of self because at some moment (and not necessarily just in childhood), a mirror started to distort our things, as in the funfair’s Hall of Mirrors. That mirror, actually the eyes of some person important for us, reflected a twisted image of our self, immobilising us like Medusa’s gaze.

However often we polish that mirror through repetitive scenarios in our lives, whatever cleansing product we may use, even if we put a golden frame around it, we cannot make that mirror show us integrally. However much we may persist, all we achieve is to waste our time and energy; that mirror, will always reflect back to us an infinite variety of distorted images.

Maybe once we really had no other mirror, so we had to close our eyes so as not to see the image that was returned to us. However, in adulthood we have so many mirrors around us … To accept those of our aspects that were isolated in the Shadow is to resign from any despairing and futile attempt to change the nature of that old mirror, is to stop begging it to restore the distorted images it is sending back to us – actually it is to stop begging for beautiful reflections from any mirror.

Let us stand firm on the knowledge that in the Hall of Mirrors of a troubled childhood we will always see ourselves as distorted. Let us no longer see that old mirror as the exclusive provider of our image. Let us learn at last to construct our current images by using other mirrors (there are millions of them all around us) – while at the same time accepting those disturbing past reflections as something past about which it is we ourselves who are to decide whether or not it will be meaningful in our present life.

59  Our story is our story: the inevitable cold that we sense when we open the door to our inner child

However, we have to abandon the delusion that it is possible to write any kind of happy end to the past events themselves and to accept that what we can change is their present meaning.

Nevertheless, if we manage to arrive in the Shadow’s frozen time and look face-to-face at our enclosed inner children, what we notice may not please us at first. In the depths of our imagined personal reality, our Shadowed aspects may seem undesirable, even monstrous – we must hide them or disguise them. Indeed, at times we not only feel fear, but are even disgusted when we come to face our Shadowed image – so we often tend to disguise it as something we find more acceptable. For example, L says to M, with whom she has a problematic relationship: “I don’t want you to take that trip … I’m really worried something might happen to you, call me every two hours”. In fact, it could be that with her exaggerated care and attention L is balancing her guilt about her anger with M – an anger hidden from others and from herself, deep in her Shadow. L cannot accept herself being angry, so this L’s aspect remains imprisoned in the Shadow.

The retrieval and acceptance (or rather, reception) of the alienated aspects of the self may at first be painful, since we had learnt to see these as dangerous and ugly. It is as if we dared to hold in our arms a child who has just emerged from a dark cellar and whom we see as ugly, horrifying, with distorted limbs, covered with blisters and eczema.

If though we persist in patiently learning how to hug this frightened, writhing baby, whom we have dared to hold in our arms, we may see that small body transformed before our eyes into a being both beautiful and calm, while we ourselves, in our wholeness, become the eyes that recognise, accept and confirm the child.

Of course, the body of our inner child itself (our traumatised aspects) never changes. Our story is our story and its traces cannot be erased. It is our eyes that change, for now we ourselves are the functional parents of our inner child. To open our arms to whatever we consider ugly and frightening inside us is to learn how to approach and experience our wounded existence with new eyes, in another way, without rejecting it. Really, there is nobody else but we ourselves who are able to change the present meaning of our alienated aspects and come to see them as acceptable – as beautiful and also as integrated into our present potential.

For just this reason the process of connection with our Shadow’s energy can never be only a matter of the mind or of positive thinking. It is a complex holistic process which may sometimes overturn our own familiar image. It is a matter of five steps forward, two back. It involves deep insecurity, uncertainty, risk, a bombardment of emotions. The effective integration of all these variables in a unified frame of solid self-sense can be achieved only through the cooperation of our mind, body and feelings.


60  The inner child, the trap of forgiveness, and the inevitable encounter with ancient ​anger

*** The angry child.
The child to whom has been passed the red-hot baton of the family poison (see sections 40-43) may suffer several consequences. However, there is a very sensitive point here. When this child grows to adulthood, he or she will be carrying an inner child who was once shattered, then left immobilised, unable to reassemble the pieces. This inner child, when she or he was pushed into the Shadow, apart from any other emotion, felt a perfectly natural anger – irrespective of the fact that he/she could neither recognise nor express this. An anger at the breaking of the naturally-valid unwritten life contract, which stipulated that the parent must be present, must provide acceptance and care.

At an early age this child could not express this anger to anybody (they could only break their toys, or torment animals or their weaker peers). Under the skin of an adult, though, this child can very well express this old anger; say, as parents they may break their own children like dolls, as once upon a time they used to break their own toys – only that now we are speaking not of breaking just toys but one’s own children… and thus the toxin is perpetuated.

The sensitive point in this case is this: we have seen that any reference to the inner child naturally causes feelings of a bittersweet nostalgia (see section 10).

However, I must stress once again that I, personally, consider as inadequate any attempt to work with the inner child by focusing only on those bittersweet nostalgic feelings while ignoring the child’s anger.

Unfortunately, some such thing often happens, it seems to me, in various approaches to this theme, which all too often focus on misunderstood dimensions of the meaning of forgiveness: “If I forgive my abusers I shall heal the wounds they inflicted”. In the images accompanying announcements of such supposed self-knowledge workshops, it is not unusual to see the inner child depicted as an angelic, sorrowful figure in a general atmosphere of diffuse divine light, which is born of our meeting ourselves, of the embracing of past pain, and of our ability to forgive.

I do not disagree that this angelic image really does represent one dimension of our inner child. Nevertheless, another of the inner child’s aspects is at the same time declaring angrily: “I don’t care, there is no excuse for my abusers, they should have been careful not to do that to me – from the moment that they had me, they had an obligation to be able to see what I am and what I need”.

Our inner child may well be sorrowful and quiet, but is also angry, at the same time, very angry indeed. Later on, in our adult skin, we are able to exercise some authority. And, if we not aware of our furious inner child and we have not taken on responsibility for it, then we may turn our anger blindly on the environment, on whoever is around and is weaker. Only now, as we said, instead of toys it is the next generation of children who get broken …

So any significant action aimed at meeting our inner children will include not only an encounter with the sorrow and solitude that may have seeped through the cracks in their Shadow, but also with their anger.

Thus, to frame something old that has leapt from behind the walls of my Shadow means that together with the past pain I also taste my past anger; so, I need to learn in my present not only to integrate my past pains but also how to find room for my past angers. 

Acceptance of past anger is acceptance of a feeling that there is always and anyway within me and which does not speak the language of reason, of syllogism, and of my complex adult interpretations. Down there, on the ground floor of my being, one and one always make two, and all the rest is a matter of indifference.

However, as an adult, I do not live only on the ground floor; I have developed consciousness and mind, an ability to process things in a much more complex manner than a child can –  now I also live on the top floor; up there, if I spoke only the language of the ground floor and identified myself permanently with my anger, I would surely wreck everything around me.

As already noted, it is one thing to accept and acknowledge anger and quite another to be mutated by what I acknowledge; in the second case I would be like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It is then that I would cease to accept anything, because acceptance should not entail self-destruction, and needs a solid “me” to be able to see what I am accepting from a third, alternative and broader position: that of my present.
{90} Undoubtedly, the exploitation of children is now carried out with gloves on: this ancient “art” has abandoned the poorer quarters and stepped up onto the catwalk. “This is our little princess”, says with a smile the father of white-blonde 5-year-old Capril Champion, who, in front of the camera, moistens her lips with her tongue like a professional. Later, Mrs Champion confesses, “As a baby Capril was very ugly. My husband avoided carrying her photo around with him. So she’s had a permanent wave since she was small”. In this way, we are informed once more that commerce in child flesh is a good investment (even when it flourishes in areas that are not within the remit of the public prosecutor) […] The use of violence in the punishment of children was a frequent theme of journals of record in the Victorian age. The publisher of one such work printed a compendium of letters signed by mothers from good society, who displayed rich imagination in creating a wide variety of punishments […] A psychoanalyst would discover that behind the wrath of the friends of Morality and Family there is a subtle erotic thread – a mixture of lesbian desires and repressed sadism. [Aranitsis, Evgenios – 2]


61  The sensitive matter of apology and forgiveness

Many people believe that if we demand and receive an apology from those who once hurt us as children, then our inner child will calm down, he or she will forgive the bad ones and the pressure of the Shadow will be relieved. (This sorry may be uttered by the actual individual who caused the harm in the past, if still living, or by a mental image of that person, if dead).

However, things perhaps are not like that. The inner child has to do with past frozen experiences and their accompanying past frozen feelings; time, on this level, was frozen with them too. Thus, what we metaphorically call “the inner child” is locked into her or his own logic, in his or her own time and developmental stage. An apology from our present is useless, certainly if it comes through our ears to our inner child from an unknown older version of the person who once did the harm. 

In other words, the aspect of our self that was frozen in the Shadow Then, with all her or his feelings belonging also to Then, not to our present, cannot grasp the logic of our present-day complex selves. Besides, as has been already noted, our inner child knows nothing about the present form of whoever has been experienced as bad in the past.

The inner child lurks  low down, on the ground floor of our being and in our bodily memory, on the emotional level of our experiences imprinted on our bodies; he or she is characterised by primitive emotions and the only thing needed is to see the bad one become good – which is not viable. So a sorry by the bad guy in his or her present form and age is, for the frozen time of our inner child, a useless sorry from a stranger; it may even provoke further anger and sadness.

So, whether or not we hear a sorry, we are under no obligation to forgive anyone, because:
• (a) On the one hand, for our inner child that apology is unrecognisable and unperceived – he or she knows only (1) what she or he suffered without understanding why and (2) the eternally repetitive loop of the frozen time of their suffering.
• (b) On the other hand, for us adults, the forgiveness we direct in our present to a different version of a person who once hurt us falls into a void – the one who hurt us does not hear, because that person has been lost in the past and does not exist in our present. So, whether or not we hear an apology, there is nobody to forgive.

A fearful figure of a mother or father will always remain fearful for our inner child, no matter if these figures have aged and said sorry to us decades later. The inner child cannot make sense of this apology and will never see them as angels – that is the results of their behaviour are still stored through our embodied memory in our Shadow.

Nowadays we need the adult version of our self to offer protection, consolation, safety, tenderness, acceptance, confirmation.
If instead we tell our inner child “Look how sorry they are, now”, this is like betraying the child, like saying, “You are wrong, they are not so bad, they did not hurt you so much, your suffering is not so important”. And this is simply a new trauma…

To put it differently, we cannot calm down sealed-off primary feelings of fear, sadness and anger, vibrating on the ground floor, by using complex arguments and associations generated on the upper floors of our being.   

So the inner child is exclusively our own concern and any kind of forgiveness when receiving a sorry is our adult concern, too. It is futile to ask our inner child to forgive because it does not know yet the complex meaning of the word. The inner child’s landscape is an emotionally primitive one – forgiving is a complex process and unknown to the primary levels of our inner child’s Shadowed home. A traumatised cat or dog does not actually forgive as we humans mean it when after beating it we feed and caress it – it simply creates a new experience with us (something that is not always possible, depending on how sadistic we have been …).

In any case, we alone can communicate with our inner child, meet her, take him in our arms, as an elder brother or sister or a healthy parent arriving from the future (see section 55). This is why the task of encountering our inner child does not depend on whether the bad figure of a parent is living or dead – it is exclusively our own issue.

In short, when we speak in our present, literally or symbolically, with a parent who so harmed us that we exiled a part of our self in the Shadow:
• (a) we need to speak two languages: that of the adult and that of our inner child and
• (b) we must know which language we are speaking, who is speaking to whom, and from what position on the vector of time. In other words, to desperately need a sorry from our parent in our present and to think that this sorry might calm us, is as if a hurt child wanted now to receive what was once due but which was never received. It means becoming a child again and addressing ourselves even now to a parent from the past. It means that even now, as adults, we are pointlessly asking again to be seen, by the same parental figure whom we asked in tears to see us as children within the Shadow.


62  The trap within the phrase “I’m finished with that; this issue is closed”: the present holding onto the ​past

When one of our old issues no longer concerns us as once it used to, we often say “For me, that issue is now closed” (in particular, this is heard in psychotherapy). I take the view that in this phrase the lemma “close” the issue (or sort out or solve) cannot really be appropriate. Indeed, when its meaning is not made clear, it may cause delusions, unrealisable expectations and fundamental misunderstandings concerning the healing of our past.

For me, to close any past issue would introduce a distorted sense of freedom and healing, because it would mean something impossible: that I am now free once and for all from that issue; that I managed to erase some pages of my history without altering the continuity of my course in life; that my scar disappears completely and smooth baby skin is seen in its place; that an aspect of mine once hidden in the Shadow surfaces smiling into the light of my conscious awareness and now everything is and will be fine and even wonderful regarding my past issue.

However, what happened, happened; I cannot eliminate an injury already suffered by my inner child. As we saw in the previous section, to close something from my past can only mean that I transform the background against which I now attribute a new meaning to what then happened, so that it does not affect destructively my life.

I want somehow to clarify further just what might be meant by the phrase “create a new background”.
Metaphorically, let us imagine that in the past I was the size of an A4 sheet of paper and some traumatic event was as big as a plate. Placing the plate on the sheet of paper, it covers most of it. By doing so, the plate acquires a very important meaning in relation to the A4 sheet, as the plate is large and almost completely covers the paper. If though we imagine that we place the same plate on the floor of a large room, then the meaning of the plate changes in terms of its new background, although the plate is still the same size.

  Correspondingly, some then event in my life (which in our metaphor is the plate), covers me almost completely while I am a child (let’s say when I am the size of an A4 sheet). Time passes, the past event remains as a point in my history; however, in the meantime, if I have grown to the size of the floor, that event will no longer have the same significance that it used to have when I was A4 size – a plate seen on the background of a large floor is very different from a plate seen nearly hiding an A4 sheet. As the plate is always the same, my past wound remains always a past wound, but with a different meaning, no longer defining me in my Now. For now I have grown, I have become the floor, I have created a new background against which, from my present position, I attribute new meaning to the past event.

I recall hearing a beautiful phrase from my teacher, supervisor and colleague Katya Hatzilakou (2004, personal communication), the upshot of which was that a bad wound always leaves a scar – which sometimes itches, sometimes hurts a little when the weather changes, but does not hinder us in our everyday life.
I entirely agree. Wounds because of which we were alienated from aspects of our selves can never regain the smooth skin of a baby. They leave scars (Bly, 1990). They are always there, even when not critically affecting our present – that is, the past wound, even with its new present meaning, is still on our time line – we cannot delete or hide it, as in Facebook …

This means that anyway sometimes in life, possibly, it happens that present situations very vividly recall past situations. And when this happens, it is quite likely that our then-terrified aspect, which we managed to re-own in our awareness by attributing to it a new meaning, will tend to hide once more in the Shadow – the scar left by the past injury will trouble us again, as a familiar repetitive scenario that tends to be re-activated because the present at times resonates with and looks similar to a painful or threatening past.
So I think that the phrase “I accept my Shadow” does not mean that I close anything, but rather that I redefine my relationship with my history by attributing different meanings to past events.


63  The dance with the Shadow as an improvised dance without established steps

And now, let us wonder: what might our way of thinking be to build this improvised connection and authentic dialogue with the Shadow?
My proposal is to see all the processes of our connection with the Shadow as we would be exploring something entirely unknown – a strange, an alien object, say. What would we do, how would we approach it?

• (a) Certainly not just by eternally looking at it through a telescope from afar. At some moment, if we want results from our exploration, we drop the telescope and go into action: we start approaching the object, step-by-step.
• (b) Then we stop because we need to process what we saw of the object while approaching it.
(c) As we integrate our first observations we combine the new information with what we already know about things.
(d) Then we start moving again: we go around it gathering new data – we touch it, we palpate it or even smell it as we explore it through all our senses. Then again we stop, process, explore in  more and sophisticated ways, and so on.
• (e) As we build up our knowledge about it, we never forget that at every moment we are ready to drop it and move away quickly, if we see some element of the object that we find alarming.

This is a process involving uncountable variables, far beyond any logical control and, like any other complex process, cannot but be of an improvisational nature: each next step is born out of the previous one and is connected with all the previous ones.

So, what we are actually doing is that we improvise our connection with the strange unknown object. We take a step. We stop. We elaborate on what we have learned. We evaluate the situation. We examine the risks. Then we try something else, cautiously checking our new moves, until we dare to risk the next step. And so on.
Similarly, our dance with the Shadow cannot but be improvised …

This means that, after starting the dance with our Shadow, we have to become sensitive to its protests when we step on its feet, while we may take care that the Shadow does not step on our feet too often. In other words, we improvise effectively our connection with Shadowed aspects of self, when we ground ourselves in our present while taking care not to let those aspects chaotically flood our whole present existence.


64  The importance of the first steps: getting out of the comfort zone

The one sure thing is that we start learning any dance only by starting to dance, not by watching videos about dance. That is to say, the dance with the Shadow can never happen if we merely read books and articles about personal growth, overdo meditation or contemplation, or hope for some metaphysical intervention. To start connecting with our Shadowed aspects we need “doing”, we need praxis. We need to explore experientially (on the levels of the body, emotion and mind) what we do in our habitual everyday life, and how we do it.

To put it differently, if whatever elements make up what I call “my life” always remain the same, then they will always produce the same relationships and the same interactions between them. Most importantly, they will therefore also reproduce the fortifications of the Shadow; when I am accustomed to sleeping only on one side, I usually don’t want to know how it would be to sleep on the other – if I want to know this, I have to deliberately break my habit, and experiment.

If we disturb our peace and our habitual sense of order just a little, if we rearrange somewhat whatever constitutes “my life”, new awareness will be produced; new possibilities to move in the world will emerge, new experiences, a new view of individual reality – as when our leg gets numb and we simply move it with no motive apart from bringing back sensation.

The new and the unexpected give rise to interest; and when we are interested in something we get excited, are motivated, and then our vital energy for life is brought into action and we move in the world and change as we enrich our being; I note that excitation usually tends to lead to movement because the energy produced during the excitement has to be somehow spent.

So, daring something just a little different from what we usually do may awaken us, may shift the deep tectonic plates of our being, may open new, unpredictable and unknown possibilities the existence of which we could never have imagined, before we stirred up our habitual sense of ourselves and our life. New places, new relationships, a new activity or career (as far as possible), new situations (especially if these are somewhat provocative to our habitual style of living), new approaches to familiar perspectives on things – all these are steps that call on us to manifest new aspects of ourselves through which we shall start receiving and using the energy blocked in our Shadow.

Then, if stirring up the habitual is exciting yet safe, the psycho-biological system of our being, without our even thinking about it, will itself create a restructuring of the relationship with our Shadow (see the “paradoxical theory of change” in section 56).

So, the Shadow moves and we start connecting with its energy when we ourselves move a little away from our consolidated habits.
What happens here is that, even if we move just slightly outside our comfort zone (outside what we usually do, and how we do it), the natural creativity of our being will be stirred and flow more freely. The new interactions between the various elements that make up what we are, will produce new creative adjustments (see section 44) because our frozen vital energy will be available to flow in the new channels of our enriched awareness. And at some moment a Shadow that had been frozen will slowly begin to move – though creaking at first…


65  “​as much … so much” – “stay with it” – “trust the process of change”

The same applies when we speak of dancing with our Shadow: we are actually speaking of a flexible movement back and forth, approaching and receding from our Shadowed aspects. This movement is like an oscillation that combines risk, change and safety. Both directions are important. By moving forth we take a risk as we build new awareness; by moving back we keep the excitement within a safe framework and we do not violate our own boundaries. Besides, still according to the “paradoxical theory of change”, to slow down is anyway the “best we can do” (see section 45) when the movement of the Shadow tends to scare us by threatening our present boundaries.

In one sense, we could say that this back-and-forth rhythm can be summed up in four words: “as much … so much”. I move and I risk as much as I need,  just so much as to step a little beyond ease and comfort, yet without generating any threat that would paralyse me.
How can these four words be helpful in our connection with the energy of the Shadow?
Practically, “​as much … so much” means accepting that for some time we will live some kind of possibly troubling disequilibrium and that we do not have to fight or avoid this disequilibrium. We can always, for some time, “stay with it” – where “it” refers to the unsettling feelings possibly produced because of our dance with the Shadow, until such feelings get integrated with our being. (Here, I note that the three words “stay with it” are very important in Gestalt therapy, actually meaning “trust the process of change”).

Still practically speaking, we support the process of integrating feelings emerging from Shadow into our awareness, when we are well grounded in our present adult time – in whatever else we are beyond our aspects emerging from our Shadow. And by saying “to be grounded in whatever else I am apart from my ghosts”, I mean that I have to slow down my need to logically understand “What is this, now, what has happened, what shall I do?” and attempt to hold on to (to frame) the annoying feelings that invade my habitual reality as an echo from my Shadow. 

Reiner Maria Rilke (2005) says: Try to love your own questions, as if they were locked rooms or books written in an unknown foreign language. Do not yet try to get answers: they will not be given to you, because you would be unable to apply them, to “live” them. And that is just important enough: to live everything. For the moment, just live your questions. And maybe one day you might find the answer without understanding how.

I see in Rilke’s beautiful text the central idea of this last section expressed in a poetic way: what we need to do when enriching our awareness with Shadowed aspects of self, is actually to trust the overall rhythm of our self-organisation (creative adjustment – see section 44) while welcoming whatever starts to emerge from our Shadows; however, I note once more that this is an integrative process that has to do with our wholeness and does not refer only to our minds.
“As much … so much”, in the dance with the Shadow, means simply that I am neither paralysed nor lost amongst ghosts from my past; it means to follow honestly what I am becoming in my wholeness in each moment because I am able to say farewell to the old so as to make room for the forthcoming new; it means to  remain energetic, alive in real life, doing my best to move on as a whole, without disconnecting with whatever lurks beyond my consciousness (outside the realm of my mind).

And at times, as we move forward to the rhythm of “as much … so much”,  we start to re-own some aspects of our self that had been forgotten in the Shadow, making them part of our actual potential in life.

**These are the moments when our Shadow, this invisible companion of every step we take, this silent collaborator in the footnotes to our moments, now starts smiling at us amicably, offering the gift of its energy to be put to use in deepening and enriching our life.
**These are the moments when our inner child can rest calmly in the warmth of our refined awareness.
**These are the moments when some part of our Shadow ceases to appear to our eyes as a monstrous nightmare, but instead becomes a charming and good-looking partner who winks a friendly eye … smiling and inviting us to a dance mutually constructed, with steps not pre-established but improvised, with no “serious” aim of self-knowledge, but just for the immense relief and joy of coexisting with our darkness in some harmony …
{95} To erase everything from the blackboard from one day to the next, to be as new as each new dawn, eternally naive in emotion – this and only this is worth the effort of being and having, so that we can be and can have that which, albeit imperfectly, we are. [Pessoa, Fernando – 5].


Appendix.7  Sisyphus and his wisdom: a suggestion about acceptance

It is not at all easy to accept our Shadow and the threatening aspects of self we bury in there, because of our existential givens. The burden of our knowing the inevitability of these givens makes each of us a Sisyphus, condemned in eternity to roll a huge stone up a hill, which, once it gets to the top, will roll back down.

At a first glance, it seems that Sisyphus’ activity is utterly futile and that he has every reason to be depressed. However, Albert Camus (1942-2005) notes that we can see Sisyphus in another way: as absolutely and totally dedicated to what he does at any moment …

Thus, we can now probably imagine a different Sisyphus. His mind is fixed on the way his feet tread the ground, on how he might best place his hands and shoulders against the rock. He breathes deeply so as to use all his strength to shift it. He concentrates on the various techniques he might employ to overcome obstacles.

Of course, we can also choose to imagine him lost in despair, when the rock makes things hard for him and he loses all hope: it is when he sees his rock tilt for no apparent reason and take yet another plunge, when just an instant before he had balanced it on the summit of the hill.

Nevertheless, if we think within the framework of being focused on the “here and now” of what is happening, we can once again imagine him as taking pleasure in each new beginning, in every small victory, in each completed cycle. A cycle which on the one hand is highly restricting because of its repetitive nature, but on the other hand is liberating, since Sisyphus may choose how he will execute each section of this cycle.

That is, on the micro-scale of “here and now”, Sisyphus can in some way transcend the overall futility of his task on the macro-scale; in other words life can actually acquire in practice a meaning at every instant of a flowing present, regardless of the terrifying futility that someone may see in the thought of “I live – and therefore I will die…”. 

This Sisyphus is well-grounded. He is not fooled by what common sense calls “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. He does not push the rock upwards so as to place it once and for ever stably on the summit of the hill – at times he may hope that some such thing may be possible, but he almost invariably remembers that this is unachievable under the rules that govern him, the rock, the slope, and everything else.

This Sisyphus accepts the rules of the game as well as his own inability to change them. He chooses not to waste his efforts in pointless protests against nature’s having made him the way nature made him, against being forced to play the game the way he must play it – that is, with nature’s rules and with limitations that he himself did not define and about which he was never consulted as to whether he liked them or not.

This Sisyphus is certainly not naive. He is not befooled, nor is he carried away by the intensity of his struggle. He is not ignorant of what is going on. He does not choke back cries of despair, nor his grief, nor his grievances. But he does not stop there. He also allows every inch of this pathway, with every large or small thing within it, to totally absorb him, to produce a new Now, full of surprises, and a next step. In short, his dedication to his pathway, inch by inch, becomes the meaning that provides him with the energy and vitality to go on.


A.8  The real power of the “here and now”:  “I live” life directly and at the same time “I think about life”

In the myth of Sisyphus the concept of “here and now” provides us with a valuable philosophical approach to human nature and human life, an approach able to provide support for our existential angst. At the same time, in our days, “here and now” is very much in fashion, and as a result is often seen in simplistic ways that violate its conceptual core (see section 10 about fashionable ideas and the inner child).

Our existential angst is a result of our highly complex function of consciousness and our ability to think, also highly complex. Babies and animals do not suffer existential angst because they cannot think as adult humans do; they do not consciously know anything about the fact that we are sure to die someday, nor do they know about futility, loneliness, or responsibility for choice.

This means that every raw and fresh primary micro-emotion that anyhow each moment of simply being alive generates in me, is created on a different level (lower from the point of view of complexity) from the one in which my existential angst is produced. Existential despair and my need to feed my Shadow with whichever of my aspects are insupportable in my conscious awareness, have to do only with the upper levels of my experiential factory.

Contrariwise, the language of that higher cognitive level on which I am overwhelmed by the futility of life and the fear of death cannot cancel out the direct physical pleasure that occurs.
In other words, the fact that I am thinking about life does not contradict the fact that I am living my moments through my sensations and emotions.

When I am thirsty on a hot summer’s day and drink a glass of cold water, if I hypothetically focus exclusively on the higher level, on which I experience futility and a fear of death, it is quite possible that the direct bodily and emotional effect of cold water in my dry mouth will lose all meaning. However, the water provides rehydration and remains cold, irrespective of whether or not this seems meaningful to me.

On the micro-scale of our experiences, the direct pleasure of the cold water has no need to defeat, the futility that may be attributed to the cold water on the macro-scale; such victory is not necessary because the emotional direct meaning of cold water when I am thirsty is produced locally through an immediate and specific interaction of the cool water with the mucus membranes of the mouth; it is not produced because I was thinking about drinking water.

Down there, in the elementary immediacy of our experiencing life’s phenomena, everything is an end in itself that emerges just from the fact that we exist and move on. It does not matter how much or how anxiously we seek the meaning of life on another, higher level of organised thought; such a quest will not alter what happens down there with every breath we take.

When Sisyphus surrenders on the micro-scale to his task of rolling the rock, the direct live emotional meaning produced is not at all contradictory to the futility (or to any kind of complex meaning) that could arise on the macro-scale of his activity. The whole process unfolds naturally, on several levels of complexity, and is an end in itself – as when a baby plays, unconcerned by the fact that the playpen has bars.

At times any one of us, like Sisyphus, might howl with desperation from the summit, realising the futility of our efforts in life. On the other hand, we might feel proud when we see the rock rolling down again – after all, we were the ones who got it up there, so the fact of its rolling back down again is all our own work. It is our achievement.

Or we may even learn to balance on the rock as it hurtles downward, as an acrobat might balance and dance on a rolling barrel
And then, perhaps we can create unlimited variations on the same game, just because each time it may be excitingly different in its details.

It would appear that due to our physical and psychological construction, our experiences unfold through the whole edifice of our existence; the roller coaster of our life swoops high then hurtles down again so as to keep on rolling; Sisyphus may cry desperately, but also enthusiastically pushes his rock upwards again, focusing on each minimal Now during each moment of the ascent.
In any case, tasting life in every cell of our body through mind and feeling, as whatever we are NOW in our wholeness while living in the world, always gives birth to something new – both within us and outside us.
Perhaps it is only this guaranteed emergence of novelty that constitutes a sufficient reason to carry on in life – if and when we allow each forthcoming new moment to flood our being, as this fresh moment emerges from the future in order to become our next brilliant present …

The theme of this book of Shadows

is about how some aspects of ourselves seem to escape us and, even if they are non-conscious and non- mentally perceived, they are able to critically affect whatever we are doing or not doing at any moment. It is a visit “down there”, at the sanctuary of our moments and of our selves.

This book is actually a thorough study and at the same time a proposal 

about (a) the grandeur (and the drama) of how our experience is composed on both a micro (no-conscious) as well as on a  macro (conscious) scale, (b) the architecture of the Shadowed “home” of what is usually called “inner child” – who is not only sad but also very angry…

SHADOW: our silent companion through life’s journey

INFO: [378 pages]  [14,2 X 20,2 cm] ISBN 978-618-00-1371-9
1st edition in English: 100 numbered and signed copies.
This edition is published by the author and is to be distributed exclusively
in Greece or delivered in other countries only by order to the author:    +30-6977-210469    +30-2310-262872

A video in first person on the central
ideas of the book and its features

2 short videos (no-words) on the ideas of the


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